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>t E!roma0 of Canterbury 





















IN the course of preparing a critical commentary on 
the Four Gospels, it became necessary to consider 
other instances of documents relating the same fact in 
different language, as the Gospels relate in different 
language the acts and words of Christ. 

A brief glance at the Materials for the History of 
Thomas Becket published under the direction of the 
Master of the Rolls, at once suggested extracts likely 
to afford useful illustrations. But afterwards, when 
more closely studied, those volumes seemed to present 
parallelisms to problems of New Testament criticism 
so exact and so helpful that, instead of forming a few 
paragraphs in the proposed work, the extracts and 
notes grew, first into a chapter, and then into a 
separate section. 

Up to this point, the audience in view being mainly 
students of theology, all extracts had been kept in their 
original Latin. But when it became needful to quote 
passages from the two books composed by Benedict 
and William of Canterbury on the Miracles of St. 
Thomas, many of the narratives seemed so fresh and 
interesting, so full of touches of perennial human 
nature, and often so instructive as to a past in danger 


of being forgotten, yet not to be forgotten without 
danger that a change of front was made, so as to 
give the text in English as well as in Latin, thus 
throwing everything open to the general reader while 
retaining all that was of use for the student. 

The result has been that the "few paragraphs" 
have grown into a book of considerable size, and 
probably a book in which several blemishes of detail 
may be detected, owing, partly to the method of its 
evolution, and still more to the want of leisure for 
doing full justice to the subject. But on this last point 
there was no alternative. The claims of the main 
object did not allow time for more than this incidental 
excursion. Errors and imperfections in this somewhat 
hasty translation of ecclesiastical Latin will not (it is 
hoped) prevent the unlearned reader from deriving 
from it a fairly accurate notion of Becket's Miracles ; 
and learned critics may forgive much to one who has 
given them, in almost every case of doubt or difficulty, 
the means of judging for themselves by setting before 
them the original documents so classified as to save 
them a great deal of trouble, and so annotated as never 
to pass over any point that appeared open to question. 

It will be readily understood that, in this enlarged 
and separate form, the work rarely touches on New 
Testament criticism. Nevertheless the author is not 
without hope that it may be of some indirect service 
to theologians of all schools, in so far as all are, or 
ought to be, students of evidence. One reason why 
the criticism of the Gospels oscillates much, and pro- 
gresses little, is that there has been little systematic 


study of other similar documents such as may be called 
Synoptic (like our first three Gospels) or Supplement- 
ary (like our fourth). On this subject, a vast super- 
fluity of opinions coexists with a paucity of arranged 
materials for forming opinions, and with an almost 
complete absence of recognized rules of criticism. 
The object of this treatise, so far as it bears on theo- 
logy, is to supply a store of classified facts that no 
reasonable critic can afford to despise. 

The translations of the extracts from Garnier's Vie 
de Saint Thomas le Martir have been revised by Mr. 
H. Symons, B.A., formerly Scholar of Wadham Col- 
lege, Oxford, Assistant in the Department of Printed 
Books in the British Museum. To him I am also 
indebted for the quotations from Godefroy bearing on 
points of difficulty ; and without his aid I should not 
have ventured on publishing my attempts at a literal 
rendering of the original. The Etude Historique on 
Gamier by E. Etienne (Paris, 1883) did not come to 
my notice till the first volume of this work was in 
type. Its value on philological subjects seemed 
greater than on the question of Garnier's relation to 
the Latin biographies. On the latter point students 
would find great help in the very full and able Intro- 
duction to Thomas Saga Erkibyskups by Mr. Eirikr 
Magnusson, Sub - Librarian of University Library, 
Cambridge (Rolls Series, London, 1875). 


INTRODUCTION ........ Page i 




i. The five eye-witnesses. 2. The absent friend. 3. Anonymous writers. 
4. Gamier, and the Saga . . . . . .11 



i. Introduction. 2. The different accounts. 3. The "extraordinary 
timidity " imputed by Stanley to the monks .... 27 



I. The different accounts. 2. The carrying of the cross. 3. The bolt that 
came off " as though it had been fastened by glue." 4. Another door that 
" opened as if spontaneously." 5. The "carrying " of the Archbishop 





i. The different accounts. 2. The Saga's regard for the Fitness of Things. 
3. Different points of view . Page 58 


i. The different accounts. 2. Omissions and errors ... 64 


i. The different accounts. 2. The flight of the Archbishop's friends 77 



I. The different accounts. 2. What did the Archbishop say? 3. The 
Martyr's last footsteps. 4. Stanley and Tennyson ... 87 



I. The different accounts. 2. The words of the dialogue. 3. Has Grim 
omitted any of the Archbishop's words? 4. Striking off "the cap." 5. 
Who, if any one, was "shaken off" by the Archbishop ? 6. Hugh of 
Morville. 7. Stanley and Tennyson .... 100 



i. The different accounts. 2. Who struck the first blow ? 3. Garnier's 
testimony. 4. The Archbishop's words. 5. Stanley and Tennyson 





I. The different accounts. 2. Details of the death. 3. The Archbishop's 
last words ....... Page 149 



I. The different accounts. 2. Was the body " entirely deserted " ? 3. Was 
there " a tremendous storm "? 4. The date . . . '175 



I. A general inference. 2. An early narrative, if not from an eye-witness, 
mostly contains "lies." 3. The evidence of one eye-witness is of more 
value than the concurrent testimony of many non-eye-witnesses. 4. The 
evidence of non-eye-witnesses is only so far valuable as it preserves the 
evidence of eye-witnesses, distinct from inferences and corrections made by 
the former. 5. The evidence of a late non-eye-witness is particularly liable 
to the inferential taint. 6. Errors of word. 7. Misarrangement of state- 
ments. 8. Misapplication of statements. 9. Misjudgment of statements. 
10. Omissions or alterations for edification. u. Floating Tradition. 
12. The importance of internal evidence . . . .192 




I. Gamier. 2. Anon I. 3. Grim. 4. The Saga . . 216 






Miracles, at first, unfashionable, and even dangerous. 2. The nature of 
the first miracles. 3. Benedict's description of the night and day after the 
Martyrdom. 4. Benedict's account of the first miracle. 5. John of 
Salisbury. 6. William's Preface. 7. Apparent allusions to Benedict. 
8. William acts on the principle "Choose what thou wilt." 9. Grim's 
account of the first miracle, and of the burial. 10. Anon. I. on the burial. 
11. Fitzstephen's account of the burial. 12. Fitzstephen's account of the 
first miracles. 13. Fitzstephen on the hostility to the miracles. 14. 
Herbert on the burial. 15. Herbert's silence on the miracles. 16. Anon. 
II. on the miracles. 17. Anon. III. and Anon. IV. on the miracles. 
1 8. Anon. V. reports legends. 19. Anon. X. on the burial and miracles ; 
" redness in the sky." 20. Gamier on the burial and miracles. 21. The 
Saga ; St. Thomas's Well. 22. Origin of the Saga's legends. 23. Con- 
trast between the Saga and a contemporary letter. 24. The singular value 
of Benedict's testimony ..... Page 223 



Benedict's list compared with William's. 2. Miracles of January, 1171. 
3. Lent, 1171. 4. Easter, 1171. 5. Two disappointments. 6. The 
Water of Canterbury. 7. Danger from the enemies of St. Thomas. 8. 
Increase of miracles after Easter, 1171. 9. Influence of neighbourhood; 
the worm; the cherry-stone. 10. Two peaceful deaths. n. A boy 
blind from birth. 12. Whitsuntide ; candle-miracles. 13. The moral 
effect of the miracles. 14. Dream? self-deception? or lie? 15. 
Benedict is scolded for scepticism. 16. Welsh miracles. 17. St. Thomas 
or St. Ithamar? An enemy convinced. 18. Offerings of money. 19. 
The stories of Edric. 20. The testimony of Henry of Houghton. 21. 
Miracles at Newington. 22. The thirteen " candles " . . 249 




William's attitude to Benedict. 2. The new Prologue. 3. Leprosy. 
4. The chronicler seeks variety. 5. Foreign cures ; miraculous chastise- 
ments. 6. The son of William of Banwell ; Matilda from the region of 
Cologne. 7. The Saint's "merry jests." 8. Miracles for mariners; an 
imposture works a cure. 9. The Water ; imperfect cures ; Benedict's 
miracle. 10. Restoration after drowning. n. Leprosy again. 12. 
Trial by ordeal. 13. Dropsy ; beer that will not ferment. 14. End of 
the Fourth Book; the Fifth Book; confusion in arrangement. 15. The 
Sixth Book ....... Page 302 


[I] 1 Thomas, Archbishop of Canterbury, was murdered 
on Tuesday, 2Qth December 1 170. Three days later, Emma, 
wife of a knight in Sussex, wept for him as a martyr, and, 
while weeping and praying, recovered from a temporary 
attack of blindness. On the Sunday afterwards, Huelina, 
in Gloucestershire, recovered from a terrible complaint in 
the head that had troubled her for years (taking away all 

1 [10] Black Arabic numbers refer to subsections, indicated by black numbers, 
in this volume : la, 2a, etc., mean footnotes on subsections 1, 2, etc. An ordinary 
Arabic number, following a black one, refers to a paragraph in a subsection in 
the Parallel Miracles : e.g. 679 (2) = subsection 679, paragraph (2). 

Anon. I. means the author commonly called "Roger of Pontigny." As 
there is practically no evidence for the latter title, Anon. I. has been adopted as 
being less misleading, and also as indicating that this writer is superior in 
authority to all the other anonymous writers. 

Gamier means Garnier's Vie de Saint Thomas, ed. Hippeau, Paris, 1859, 
referred to by the line in that edition. 

Lupus, see Quadrilogus below. 

Mat. means Materials for the History of Thomas Becket Archbishop of Canter- 
bury, vols. i.-vii., edited by the Rev. J. C. Robertson, Canon of Canterbury, 
Rolls Series, London, 1875-1885. Thus Mat. iii. 51 means p. 51 of vol. iii. of 
the Materials. In Part II. Mat. is .often omitted for brevity, where the 
reference is to William's or Benedict's works on St. Thomas's Miracles, which 
are, severally, in vols. i. and ii. of the Materials. 

Quadrilogus, or the Early Quadrilogus, means the early form of that work 
(21), sometimes called by the misleading name of the Second Quadrilogus 
because it was not printed till 1682. A later (23) and ampler edition, printed 
in 1495, is sometimes called by the misleading name of the First Quadrilogtis. 
In this work it is called the Late Quadrilogus. 

The Early Quadrilogus is sometimes referred to as " Lupus," or "Wolf," the 
name of its editor. 

Saga means Thomas Saga Erkibyskups, edited by Mr. Eirikr Magnusson, 



power of motion for days together) and this, immediately 
after her mother Aaliza, of London, had professed faith 
in Thomas as a martyr and had pledged her daughter to a 
pilgrimage to the place of his death. 

[2] So says Benedict, the author of the earliest treatise 
on St. Thomas's miracles, and few will dispute that his 
statements are correct. Of course, it may be said about 
these two cases that, in each, the recovery was a mere 
coincidence, or a sequel, not a result. But a glance at 
Benedict's book will shew that the coincidence-theory soon 
breaks down. There are too many of such " coincidences," 
or "sequels," to be explained under' either heading. In a 
large number of these cases probably, and in some certainly, 
men and women were instantaneously or rapidly healed, in 
a way in which an ordinary physician could not have healed 
them ; and the most reasonable statement of the cause is 
that it was a strong emotional shock conveyed to them 
through faith in the late Archbishop whom people now 
called Saint and Martyr. 

[3] Facts like these are more helpful than volumes of 
vague generalities, or even acute discussions of political 
questions, in bringing before us the attitude of the poorer 
classes in England in the great contest between Henry II. 
and his former Chancellor. They were for the Archbishop, 
as the champion of the poor and of righteousness or, 
perhaps, more negatively, their defender against brutalizing 
encroachments of rapacity, violence, and lust. It does not 
seem to have been with them, primarily, a national question, 

Sub-Librarian of University Library, Cambridge (Rolls Series, London, 1875). 
It is referred to by vol. and page. 

Stanley means Stanley's Memorials of Canterbury, loth edition, London, 1883. 

N.B. In the spelling of names it has not been thought necessary to aim at 
uniformity. For example, by calling Reginald Fitzurse, Reginald in translations 
from William of Canterbury, but Reynald, Rainald, or Renald in translations 
from other authors, there is gained the advantage of distinguishing an author 
using the Latin from those using the French form. 


English against French, though in a few of the miracles, 
and especially the notable one of Eilward of Westoning, 2 
there appears in the burgesses a sense of resentment against 
the law of mutilation for theft and its hard administration. 
Fundamentally, their zeal for the Martyr was a zeal for him 
as the representative of the oppressed in either nation, 
French or English, and strongest among the English simply 
because the English were most oppressed. 

[4] Thomas himself did not put forth the poor, but 
" his order," or " the liberties of the Church," as the good 
cause for which he was ready to die. But still the poor 
felt that their cause was bound up in his. His " order," 
besides including as it did the great mass of those who 
could read and write, might at any time include the child 
of a common labourer. A " villain " might become Arch- 
bishop, or even Pope. It was a " clerk " of Picardy who 
expressed the feelings of the English poor in verses of 
which the following is a literal translation : 

" Kings, Counts, and Dukes, seldom we see them holy, 
These God refuseth oft as loth to serve Him, 
Oft do they swerve from right through covetousness, 
Naught do they, save what falleth with their pleasure, 
Laws make they at their will ; to lie they fear not. 

Kings God doth not elect, nor choose, nor take, 
Nor Dukes, nor other lords of high degree ; 
But whoso cry to Him and lead just lives, 
Whether of high estate or from low folk, 
God doth exalt, if they intend His service. 

The humble doth God love, the poor as well, 
For from their toil they live, in torment ever, 
And Holy Church they love, and clerks, and poor folk, 
And righteous alms they give, and lead clean lives, 
And such as these will God exalt for ever. 

2 See below, 710. 


Peter and Andrew, brothers brotherly, 
With boat and net were toiling, fishermen, 
When they were called by God from that poor labour. 
Then for His love they both were crucified, 
Apostles now in heaven and glorious lords." 3 

[5] " Apostle now in heaven " hardly exaggerates the 
feeling of the English for their new Martyr. William of 
Canterbury 4 gives us a vision, seen soon after the Arch- 
bishop's death, and before the arrival of the papal letter 
authorizing his canonization. Two priests are seen by the 
sleeper, or seer, clothed in full vestments, one of whom 
beckons to the other to begin a mass in honour of the new 
Saint. The other replies that this must not be, because the 
canonizing letter has not yet arrived from the Successor 
of the Apostles. Upon this, the first rejoins, " Then if it 

Reis et cuntes et ducx, poi les veum saintir : 
Deus les refuse mult, car ne 1'voelent servir. 
Koveitise les feit sovent del dreit guenchir ; 
Ne funt rien se 90 nun ke lur veint a pleisir. 
Leis funt a lur talent, n'ont pour de mentir. 

Les Reis n'eslist pas Deus, ne ne koisist, ne prent, 
Ne les Ducx, ne les hautes persones ensement. 
Mes chascun qui Deu crient et qui vit leument, 
U il seit de haut liu, u seit de basse gent, 
Deus le munte et eshauce, s'a lui servir entent. 

Les humles aime Deus, les povres ensement, 
Kar de lur travail vivent ; tut dis sunt en torment, 
Et aiment sainte Eglise et clers et povre gent, 
Et dreites dimes dunent, et vivent nettement ; 
Et teus eshaucera Deus parmeinnablement. 

Et Peres et Andreus furent frere frarur ; 
A batel et a reiz esteient pecheur, 
Quant Deus les apella de eel povre labur ; 
Puis furent mis en cruiz et mort pur sue amur, 
Apostles sunt el Cel et glorius Seignur ! 

This extract is from Garnier's La Vie de Saint Thomas (11. 81-115, e d- 
Hippeau, Paris, 1859), written (ib. 5825) in the fourth year after the Arch- 
bishop's death (39). 

4 See below, 594. 


cannot be in Latin, let us have it in English," and strikes 
up an Anglican antiphon that hails Thomas as 

" Hali Thomas of hevenriche (heaven-kingdom) 
Alle postles eve[n]liche," 

that is to say, " equal to all the apostles." 

[6] From these and many other stories to be found in 
the following pages, it is manifest that the memory of the 
murdered Archbishop had a great power in shaping political 
results, and still more in moulding the character of the 
people, during that memorable generation which witnessed 
the signing of Magna Charta. 

[7] In time, it is true, he became the fashionable Saint, 
and then his influence degenerated. He was supposed to 
have brought about the defeat and captivity of William, 
King of Scotland, on the very day on which Henry did 
penance at his Memorial in Canterbury. After that, it 
was natural that courtiers, and great people, and fine ladies, 
should visit his tomb, and that they and others should 
associate his name with degenerate miracles about the find- 
ing of falcons, the recovery of lost coins and rings, and other 
petty coincidences. But even then, and for a long time after- 
wards, he was associated, in the hearts of the masses, with 
the helpful Providence that watches over men's stumblings, 
dangers, and afflictions. Sailors saw St. Thomas pushing 
their vessel off a sunken reef, or bringing them safe into 
port in spite of tempest. Travellers by land or water attri- 
buted to him their most marvellous escapes. But, above all, 
among the sick and suffering, his face, with the blood-streak 
of Martyrdom sloping from the forehead across the cheek, 
made him known through visions, as well as pictures and 
poems, throughout the huts and workshops of England, not 
only as the household saint among the poor, but also as the 
special patron of those afflicted with disease. 

[8] Some may assert that Becket had no right thus to 


bless and be blessed. He was no saint, they may say, but a 
man of uncontrolled and uncontrollable disposition. Having 
passed perhaps reluctantly, perhaps with the appearance 
of reluctance from the position of Chancellor to that of 
Archbishop, he transferred to the service of the Church the 
imperious temper that he had been able to indulge without 
restraint in the service of the King. It was, they may urge, 
the circumstances of his death, and not the spirit of the 
man, that caused him to be identified with justice and 

[9] Fully to judge this question would need an examina- 
tion of the life of the Archbishop, with which this treatise 
does not deal. Yet the miracles by themselves go far to 
prove that those who see in Thomas Becket nothing more 
than a hot-tempered ecclesiastic, jealous for the exclusive 
privileges of his order, are virtually drawing an indictment 
not only against a nation but also against the very laws of 
human nature. And, so far as I have studied the records of 
his life, it seems more consistent with them also to believe 
that not till his consecration as Archbishop did the former 
Chancellor realize the abominable badness of the forces that 
were at work among the secular rulers, and the pitiable con- 
dition of the lower classes who lived, as Gamier says, " all their 
days in torment " and for whom each oppressor " made laws 
to his liking." Even when the existing laws were observed, 
yet how oppressively they may have worked, the reader may 
perceive by a glance at the story of the famous restoration of 
the mutilated Eilward of Westoning (710). 

That afterwards the secular courts improved, and the 
ecclesiastical courts degenerated, does not shew that the 
former were at that time fitted to encroach, if Henry II. 
wished them to encroach, on the jurisdiction of the latter, 
without injury to the prospects of national liberty. And 
this the Archbishop may have felt, and thousands of 
poor folk, too, with a keenness not easily intelligible now. 


Gradually, but with all sincerity, he may have grown into 
the conviction that he was called to contend for " his order," 
and that in fighting this battle he was championing the 
cause of the Universal Church, the spiritual Commonweal 
of mankind. For this, in his last moments, he professed his 
readiness to die ; and, dying for this, unarmed against arms, 
with faith in invisible against visible forces, and attesting his 
faith with his blood, he seems fairly entitled to the name of 

[10] Be this as it may, all those who are interested in 
the shaping of religions, the foundation of churches, and 
generally in the moulding of the human mind by emotional 
and imaginative forces, may here find much that may throw 
light on these fascinating subjects. Indeed, from one point of 
view, the less saintly and the more imperfect St. Thomas was, 
the more interesting becomes the study of his influence. 
For if a very imperfect and wholly unsaintly person could be 
placed by death in a position to work such wonders, how 
much more mighty works might be expected, after death, 
from one who was a real Saint, a Saint of Saints, identified 
also with the cause of righteousness at a time when, to the 
eyes of the Christian seer in Patmos, a Beast seemed seated 
on the throne of the civilized world ! 

The preceding remarks refer only to Part II., which deals 
with the miracles. 

[11] Part I. deals with the Martyr's death, and attempts 
to shew from a classification of several narratives how even 
eye-witnesses may have been misled, and may have misled 
others, as to important details, and also how easy and natural 
it was for the miraculous element to intrude, even within 
five years of the Martyrdom, as soon as a writer, quitting 
documents, began to quote what he called (31) "veracious 




I . The five eye-witnesses l 

[12] AMONG a large number of accounts of the murder 
of Archbishop Becket in 1170, five were written (wholly or 
in part) from ocular testimony, viz. those by (i) Edward 
Grim, (2) William Fitzstephen, (3) John of Salisbury, 
afterwards Bishop of Chartres, (4) William of Canterbury, 
and (5) Benedict, afterwards Prior of Canterbury. (6) A 
sixth writer, Herbert of Bosham, was with the Archbishop 
almost to the day of his death, and had been on intimate 
terms with him during his archiepiscopal career. Some 
account of these writers will enable the reader to understand 
their several points of view and to appreciate the explana- 
tions of their divergences. 

[13] (i) The place of honour is due to Edward Grim, 
" an Englishman by birth," who had but recently come to 
the Archbishop. Newcomer though he was, he stood by 
his patron's side, when the rest of his clerks (except Fitz- 
stephen) abandoned him, and almost lost an arm in the 
attempt to save him from being dragged out of the church. 
He is mentioned as dead by Herbert of Bosham in his list 
of Becket's " Eruditi," a list 2 compiled before the death of 
Pope Urban III. Hence Grim must have written before, 

1 For the abbreviations of references, see \a. 

2 He refers in it to Pope Urban III. ("hodie totius ecclesiae rector"), who 
died 2Oth October 1187, Saga, ii. p. xcii. 


and probably several years before, 1187. His work con- 
cludes with a description of the king's penance at St. Thomas's 
Tomb (1174). He mentions Benedict as Prior of Canter- 
bury (i 175-77), and probably wrote about, or before, 1 177- 3 

[14] (2) William Fitzstephen, one of the Archbishop's 
" clerks," was an inmate of his household, remembrancer in 
his chancery, and sub -deacon in his chapel, occasionally 
acting as advocate in the archiepiscopal court. Both he 
and John of Salisbury were with the Archbishop just before 
the murder ; but he claims that, when John and the rest of 
the " clerks " ran away, he remained, along with Edward 
Grim and Robert of Merton (of whom mention will be made 
below). Fitzstephen, like Becket, was a native of London, 
and he gives a glowing description of the city. The editor 
of his biography notes the enthusiasm with which he writes 
of the good points of a horse : and, in general, he takes 
a less monastic view of things than Herbert of Bosham, 
Benedict, and William. He will be found the only one to 
tell us concerning the knights, as they enter the Cathedral, 
that they had their visors down. 

[15] On a memorable occasion at Northampton, when 
Herbert advised the Archbishop to excommunicate any one 
that might lay hands on him, Fitzstephen dissuaded his 
patron from following this advice. Perhaps there was no 
love lost between him and his fellow " clerks " John of 
Salisbury, in particular, whom he singles out for unfavourable 
mention, tacitly contrasting his flight with the courage of a 
few. Herbert of Bosham says that John " remained with 
our martyr in his trial strenuously and manfully to the end," 
while he excludes Fitzstephen from his long list of the 
Archbishop's faithful and learned companions. Fitzstephen 
did not accompany the Archbishop into exile, and he himself 
tells us that he made his peace with the King by presenting 

3 If Grim, as is probable, borrowed from Gamier, the former must have 
written after the latter, i.e. after the beginning of the year 1175 (39). 

16 HIS DEATH 13 

to him a form of prayer fit for the King's use composed in 
rhyming Latin verse. There is nothing of the flatterer in it, 
and he makes the King accuse himself of a multitude of 
sins. And the Archbishop himself does not seem to have 
blamed his follower. But the exiles may naturally have felt 
bitter against the man who could keep on terms both with 
their banisher and with their leader. He probably began 
to write some time before 1177, and before the publication 
of William of Canterbury's book of Miracles. 4 

[16] (3) John of Salisbury, one of the Archbishop's 
most familiar friends and counsellors, is known, from the 
testimony of Benedict, to have been with the Archbishop in 
his palace and to have expostulated with him for his bitter 
and contumelious language to the four knights ; and he is 
expressly mentioned (somewhat unkindly) by Fitzstephen 
as abandoning the Archbishop in the Cathedral. Yet his 
account of the murder is most meagre being little more 
than a repetition of a letter actually written soon after its 
occurrence. 5 For this, several probable reasons may be 
assigned. He was a man of temperate disposition, favouring 
moderate courses, and he may have thought that no good 
could be done by mentioning the names of the murderers 
in detail and heaping execrations on them ; he was a man 
of affairs (not long afterwards Bishop of Chartres) and may 
have felt that detailed reminiscences and reproaches, while 
doing no one any good, might injure his own prospects of 
useful work; and widen the breach between the King and 
the Church. He makes no mention of Edward Grim. It is 
probable that he wrote his biography before 1176 when he 
was made Bishop of Chartres : but in any case he seems 
to have taken no trouble to revise and amplify his account 
of the Martyrdom, which he leaves as he first wrote it. For 

4 [15#] There appear to have been two editions of Fitzstephen's biography. 
The briefer (and probably earlier) is now found only in one MS., called J. 
3 Mat. ii., Introd. p. xlii., vii. 465 sq. 


our purposes, therefore, he wrote immediately after the events 
that he describes (29th December 1170). 

[17] (4) William, a monk of Canterbury subsequently 
author of a book on St. Thomas's miracles dedicated to 
Henry II. describes himself as present at the time -of the 
murder, and admits with contrition that he fled to a neigh- 
bouring altar just before the fatal blow. In his book on 
the miracles he makes no attempt to arrange them chrono- 
logically ; and his account of the Martyrdom is confused, 
partly, perhaps, because it combines an original narrative 
written shortly after the act with what seems an appendix 
of later date. It is only in the appendix that Grim is 
mentioned, and there somewhat grudgingly. William began 
to compile the Book of Miracles seventeen months (May 
1 172) after the Martyrdom (i 170). After Henry II. had 
done penance at the tomb of St. Thomas ( 1 1 74) there was 
no reason why eulogies of the Martyr should not be freely 
published. Most of the important miracles toward the end 
of William's book took place in 1174. He was probably 
sent to King Henry with his book shortly after Benedict 
was removed from the Priorate of Canterbury to the Abbacy 
of Peterborough (1177). In its present form, William's 
work contains very severe censures on the Irish War, 6 and 
there are other passages that King Henry might have dis- 
liked to read. But there is no necessity to suppose that 
the dedication copy presented to the King included every- 
thing that appeared in later copies. In describing Henry's 
cruelty to Becket's relations, 7 William prudently copies the 
exact words of John of Salisbury (Bishop of Chartres in 
1176). His book on Miracles must have been published 
before 1189 (the year of Henry's death). His biography, 
at all events in part, was probably written much earlier than 
that date ; at all events, long before 1 1 99, in which year it 

6 E.g. Mat. i. 507, see also 600- r Mat. i. 47. 

19 HIS DEATH 15 

was incorporated in a Harmony of four lives of Becket, 
called Quadrilogus. 

[18] (5) Benedict, a monk of Canterbury (Prior from 
1175 to 1177), is said 8 to have been "among the Arch- 
bishop's familiar friends, in specially familiar attendance, on 
the day of his death." At the time of the murder, he would 
naturally be in the Cathedral at vespers, or else in attendance 
on the Archbishop. Probably the latter was the case. He 
does not speak of himself as an eye-witness ; but neither 
does Grim until he casually reveals the fact when speaking 
of the wound he receives. From the very first, Benedict 
began to collect accounts of the miracles performed in the 
name of the Martyr, and it is reasonably supposed that his 
narrative of the death was intended to be prefixed to his 
Book of Miracles. But in later times the latter was published 
by itself, and the former fell into such oblivion that it 
is now preserved nowhere but in a Harmony of four 
biographies (called Quadrilogus), and there only in a frag- 
mentary shape. In reading his evidence, therefore, we have 
to bear in mind that, so far as concerns the Martyrdom, we 
do not have it completely before us. He describes clearly 
and sometimes vividly, so far as his knowledge goes ; and 
he alone, of our Latin writers, gives the year of the Martyr- 
dom correctly. 9 He probably wrote the present narrative in 
1171, but revised it when he prefixed it to his Book of 
Miracles which was probably completed, in its first form, 
before 1175. 

2. The absent friend 

[19] (6) Herbert of Bosham is said by Fitzstephen to 
have been Becket's "teacher in the (sacred) page," i.e. in 

Scripture. Though one of the Archbishop's staunchest 

. . . 

8 Quadrilogus, Mat. iv. 371 "inter familiares illius familiarius illi assistens." 

9 Of the writers quoted below, four give it wrongly ; one implies the right 
year ; the rest omit it. Gamier agrees with Benedict (348). 


friends and adherents, both at home and in his exile abroad, 
he happened to be absent on the day of the murder, having 
been sent away by the Archbishop on a confidential mission. 
He is described by Fitzstephen as a man of striking presence 
and high spirit, well able to answer an angry king, and prone 
to advise violent courses. " Now you will see a proud man," 
said King Henry to his Council, when Herbert was summoned 
before them. 1 That there is no trace of violence or abrupt- 
ness in his style is perhaps due to the softening influence of 
old age. He wrote after almost all the companions with 
whom he had enjoyed the Archbishop's friendship had passed 
away. His narrative of facts, his comments on his own 
narrative, his defences of his own prolixity, carry prolixity to 
its height. 

[20] He is generally fair and accurate, where he testifies 
as he is fond of saying to what he has " seen and heard " 
from the Archbishop himself. Unfortunately, in describing 
Becket's death, he had to rely on the testimony of others. 
This testimony he does not mention as written. " Accepimus," 
he says, not " legimus." Hence he makes many mistakes. On 
the stormy interview between Becket and the four knights 
just before the murder when the Archbishop refused at 
first to notice their presence, continuing his conversation with 
a monk, and afterwards following them to the door with 
reproaches Herbert says little more than that he " made a 
mild answer." The villain who scattered the Martyr's brains 
about the pavement is described by him as Robert de Broc, 
though all the English world knew it was Hugh Mauclerc. 
Benedict and Fitzstephen expressly say that the body was 
not washed before burial ; Herbert says it was washed. 2 This 

1 Alat. iii. 99, one of the very interesting passages not found in the earliest 
text of Fitzstephen (15a). 

2 Herbert might easily misunderstand Grim's words (Mat. ii. 442) "ut moris 
est, corpus . . . lavandum exspoliantes. " It was stripped in order to be washed, 
but was not washed. 

[20a] The Quadrilogus, in quoting Herbert's "postquam exutum fuit, postquam 

22 HIS DEATH 17 

inaccuracy was perhaps in part the result of long residence 
abroad (though he came to England for a time while writing 
his biography). Old age, weakness of memory, a disposition 
to trust to oral tradition, and a desire to find parallelisms 
between the Passion of our Lord and the Martyrdom of 
Becket, may account for much inaccuracy even in a scrupulous 
lover of truth. His work was dedicated to Baldwin (who 
was consecrated Archbishop of Canterbury in 1185, elected 
in 1 1 84). It contains a passage referring to the death of 
Henry II. If this is (as I believe it to be) genuine, his book 
was not completed till after 1 189. In any case, he refers to 
the death of the King's son, Geoffrey (Aug. 1186). He 
describes himself as engaged in the work in the fourteenth 
year after the Martyrdom (i I84-85). 3 

3. Anonymous ^vriters 

[21] Though writing very soon after Becket's death, 
John of Salisbury speaks of " great volumes " already written 
" by him and about him," l and of the Martyrdom as " already 
known and popularized almost throughout the Latin-speaking 
world." 2 For this cause, perhaps, it seemed desirable to 
compose a Harmony of the most authoritative Lives. This 
was done about 1199 A.D. by a monk of Evesham and 
Henry, Abbot of Croyland. The work was called Quad- 
rilogus, from the " four " authors from whose works it was 

[22] In selecting their authors, the compilers would be 
influenced by two considerations, (i) intimacy with the late 

lotum, acceperunt . . . ," modifies the whole, and omits " postquam lotum," so as 
to harmonize Herbert -with Benedict, who expressly denies that the body was washed. 
This is parallel to omissions in the Diatessaron, made for the sake of harmonizing 
incompatibilities. 3 Mat. iii., Introd. xxii. 

1 Mat. ii. 302 "epistolae eius et scripta aliorum, fide plena et digna relatu." 
These words show that he does not mean " letters " but " writings," or biographies. 
Gamier wrote the first draft of his biography as early as 1172. 

2 Ib. 316 "fere per orbem Latinum." 


Archbishop, (2) connection with the Abbey of Canterbury, 
the natural repository for records of his life. They accord- 
ingly chose Herbert of Bosham, who had instructed the 
Archbishop in Scripture ; John of Salisbury, his confidential 
adviser and companion in exile ; and William of Canterbury, 
who had been requested by the monks to compile a book 
about the Saint's miracles and to present it to Henry II. 
But John's sketch was recognized by all his contemporaries 
to be inadequate, and had been supplemented by Alan (Prior 
of Canterbury from 1179 to 1188), who prefixed the 
biography, thus supplemented, to a volume of the Arch- 
bishop's correspondence. Alan, therefore, was recognized by 
the compilers of the Quadrilogus as their fourth author. 
When describing the Martyrdom, they call in Benedict as a 
fifth witness. But, as Alan does not describe the death, the 
witnesses practically remain four. 

[23] A later version of the Quadrilogus (printed in 1495, 
before the printing of the earlier one) inserts passages from 
Grim and Fitzstephen. This also contains the legend of the 
Syrian origin of Becket's mother, and an account of the 
sudden withering of a tree under which the conspirators 
plotted his death. 3 

[24] All this indicates that " The Passion of St. Thomas 
of Canterbury " would be a common subject for clerical dis- 
courses and sermons abroad, as well as popular in England, 
where the poor, and the " English by birth," regarded him as 
their special champion and miraculous healer. Hence would 
spring a great number of anonymous " Passions," from some 
of which extracts are given below. The first two are portions 
of complete Lives. 

3 The early Quadrilogus (Magnusson, Saga, ii. p. xcv. ) was recast by Roger, a 
monk of Croyland, by desire of the same Abbot Henry, in 1212-13 : "The 
method adopted in this edition was to let the correspondence tell the tale." 
In its narrative parts, it "agrees substantially with Elias's story, but the arrange- 
ment of the chapters differs considerably. This edition, preserved in ' MS. e 
Museo 133,' in the Bodleian Library, has never been printed." 

25 HIS DEATH 19 

[25] (7) The author of Anon. I. (Mat. iv. I sq.} com- 
monly, but on no evidence, called Roger of Pontigny says 
that he ministered to Becket in his exile and was ordained 
priest by him. 4 Of many events in the Archbishop's life he 
gives a most vivid and apparently faithful record, and in his 
account of the death, he is superior even to Grim and other 
eye-witnesses. The only men who stood by the Arch- 
bishop, almost up to the last, are said by Fitzstephen to 
have been Fitzstephen himself, Grim, and "brother Robert, 

4 Mat, iv. 2. He writes to record "ea quae de ipso minus dicta sunt ne 
temporis vetustate penitus pereant a memoria. " This implies that imperfect or 
inadequate accounts had been already published ; but accounts (like Garnier's 
first poem) may have been published so early that this gives little indication 
of date. 

[25] Magnusson (Saga, vol. ii. p. Ixxxiv.) has pointed out that in a passage 
describing Becket's boyhood, closely resembling Gamier, the author (Mat. iv. 8) 
makes a slip in his Latin ("Lundrensis," for " Londoniensis " ; Gamier (1. 241), 
" Lundreis"). It might be added that shortly afterwards, where Gamier (1. 217) 
has "tut enchaperunez," " quite hooded," Anon. I. has ''tutus capucciatus" 

In another passage, Gamier has 

' ' Kar en Engleterre ad une kustume mise, 
Ke 1'Aide al Veskunte est par les kuntez prise : 
Si est par dubles soud par les hides assise. " 

In the corresponding passage, Anon. I. has (Mat. iv. 23) " Erat consuetudo in 
partibus illis . . . duos solidos de singulis dimensionibus terrae suae, quas patrio 
nomine hydas vocant." At first sight it is difficult, as Mr. Magnusson says, to 
suppose that a native Englishman would call England "those parts," and "think 
it necessary to explain that ' hides ' was a thing so called ' patrio nomine.' " But 
is it not possible that the author, having communicated these facts to Gamier 
(when the latter came to Canterbury to write the second draft of his poem), and 
having found that Garnier's terse statement bewildered readers in " transmarine 
regions," may have thought it desirable to enter into explanations specially 
adapted for them, so as to make it clear to a man of Picardy what a "hide" 
was, explaining also that the custom prevailed only in " those parts " of the 
king's dominion, and not in the French regions ? It is possible that the author, 
though English, may have been residing abroad when he wrote, and may have 
written for foreigners. If he misunderstood Garnier's "tut," would not this 
shew that he was not a Frenchman? But "tutus" may be a scribal error for 
" totus." 

The relation of Anon. I. to Gamier would well repay a full and careful 
investigation. See 184<z, 253, 401. 


priest and canon of the religious house of Merton, a worthy 
man, 'who had held fast to him (the Archbishop) from the 
first day of his ordination as his chaplain and companion," 
and whom he also describes as his confessor. 5 

[26] Now Robert of Merton " ministered " to Becket " in 
his exile." This we know from Grim, who, after speaking 
of the Archbishop's habits of self-mortification at Sens, says, 
" For these facts we have the evidence of (testis et relator) 
the venerable Robert of Merton, chaplain of the sainted 
Archbishop, who learned all facts from the Archbishop 
himself, or saw them with his own eyes." 6 Whoever the 
author may have been, it appears probable that he was 
inspired by Robert of Merton, if he was not Robert himself. 

5 Mat. iii. 147. 

6 [260] See the context, Mat. ii. 417-8. It seems strange that Robert of 
Merton is not included in Herbert of Bosham's list of the Archbishop's faithful 
and learned friends (whom he calls "Eruditi"). Fitzstephen may have been 
excluded, because he did not follow Becket" into exile ; but why exclude the 
chaplain who did follow him ? Was it because, according to Herbert's standard, 
he was not "eruditus" being indeed a model of accuracy, clearness, terseness, 
and good sense, never moralizing and rarely commenting or indulging in classical 
quotations, being wholly absorbed in the scene he is describing ? 

[26^] The evidence in favour of Roger of Pontigny as author amounts to no 
more than this (Magnusson, Saga, vol. ii. p. Ixxxiii.) : (i) the author says he 
ministered to the Archbishop during his exile ; (2) a composite Life of the Arch- 
bishop (by Thomas of Froimont) states that a monk named Roger was the 
Archbishop's minister at Pontigny. 

The two years at Pontigny were but a small part of the exile ; and the words, 
"during his exile," appearing to cover the whole period, seem more applicable 
to Robert of Merton than to this unknown Roger. In describing Becket's life 
at Pontigny, the author says that he refrains from details " ne et fratribus nostris 
nota(m) ingeramus " (reading " nota " with Magnusson, " lest we should inflict 
on our brethren what they know already ") : and it has been suggested by Mag- 
nusson that it may mean "our brethren at Pontigny," implying that he himself 
was one of those brethren. But may not the words mean simply "our readers," 
or the monks of Canterbury, or any others for whom he was writing and to whom 
these details were already known in the extremely full account given by Grim, 
probably from information supplied by Robert of Merton ? On the very same 
page there is a sentence in which the author speaks of the monks of Pontigny as 
"them" (instead of "us"), which indicates that, at all events when Becket 
came to Pontigny, the author was not one of the monks there. 


His regard for accuracy of fact appears equal to his praise- 
worthy dislike for commenting and moralizing. His account 
is generally in agreement with those of Grim, Gamier, and 

[27] (8) Anon. II. (Mat. iv. 80 sg.~), sometimes called 
Lambethiensis, claims, in its Preface, to proceed from an 
eye-witness. But in the body of the work no such claim is 
made : and the same Preface is found prefixed to a fragment 
of an altogether different biography? It is probably of French 
origin, describing Becket's father as from Rouen and his 
mother (whom it calls Roesa, 8 instead of Matilda) as coming 
from Caen. The author follows John of Salisbury, the 
Bishop of Chartres, in his description of the Council of 
Clarendon and elsewhere. He occasionally touches on 
censures passed on Becket's " rashness," makes no mention 
of the King's words that practically caused the murder, but 
only of " the mad fury of his persecutors," and gives a totally 
false description of the Archbishop's reception of the four 
knights in the palace. 9 This will prepare us for an inac- 
curate account of the Martyrdom itself, in which the 
Archbishop is represented as bidding Grim desist from 
attempting to defend him. 10 

[28] It must have been a very early work ; for it con- 
tains the remarkable confession that the writer had once 
thought Beckefs conduct that of a madman?*- Moreover, its 
mention of the King's self-purgation at Avranches (1172), 
but not of his penance at Canterbury, leads to the con- 

I Mat. iv. p. xiv. 

8 Mat. iv. p. xiv. ' ' probably the same with Rohesia, the name borne by one 
of her daughters." Hence John Fox, the author of the Acts and Monuments, 
is said to have derived his statement that the Saint's mother was "named Rose." 

9 Ib. 128 "a quo benigne digneque suscepti, postquam de viae suae pros- 
peiitate dominique regis salute requisiti responderunt." 

10 Ib. 130 " Desine, frater, non hanc defensionem vult dominus." This 
appears to be suggested by a desire to draw a parallel between Christ's rebuke of 
Peter and Becket's rebuke of Grim. 

II Mat. i. 140 "et nos quidem vitam ejus putaveramus insaniam. " 


elusion that it was written before the latter event, i.e. before 

H74. 12 

[29] (9) Anon. IV. 13 (Mat. iv. 186 sq.) is a sermon 
preached on the day set apart for St Thomas who was 
canonized in 1173. It speaks of "innumerable miracles in 
divers nations and kingdoms " ; but such language is used 
by other writers within five years of the Martyrdom. The 
author mentions the Englishman Grim (though not by 
name), and his first paragraph calls St. Thomas " our father 
and the protector of his country." He falls into the error 
of supposing that the man who thrust out the Martyr's 
brains was one of the four knights. The preacher's careful 
attitude toward the King, and the general tone of the dis- 
course, suggest that it is an early composition proceeding 
from some one who had not read an accurate account, but 
had received merely the popular tradition with emphasis 
laid on the final outrage and on the " red " and " white " of 
the Archbishop's wounds (331, 334). The date was prob- 
ably soon after 1 173. 

[30] (10) Anon. V. (Mat. iv. 196 sq.) concludes with 
the words " Some one came in, after I had written what 
is written above, asserting that one of the Archbishop's 
murderers had turned mad and killed his own son." A 
tradition of this kind, current for a time but not substanti- 
ated, and not adopted by later writers, indicates a very 
early date. All the murderers were (wrongly) believed by 
Herbert 14 to have died within three years from the Martyr- 

12 One passage in this life seems to speak of Henry II. as no longer living, 
"regi restitit in faciem, cui, praeter Angliam, pars major regni Gallicani parebat, 
ad cujus etiam nomen reges . . . tremebant, cui quoque prope subditum ibat 
quicquid impetebat." But the meaning may be that the Archbishop resisted 
Henry when the latter was at the height of his power, and before the calamities 
that befell him in 1173 when his own son revolted against him. 

13 Anon. III., as printed in the Materials, gives no account of the Martyrdom. 

14 [30#] Mat. iii. 536 sq. A similar assertion is made by the so-called 
Matthew of Westminster. He says "four years " instead of "three"; but he 
places the Martyrdom in 1 1 70 whereas Herbert places it in 1171. 

32 HIS DEATH 23 

dom. If this belief prevailed in the region where the writer 
lived, we are justified in inferring even after allowing a year 
or two for the spread of the rumour that they had died 
abroad that this Passio was written about 1174-75, or 
earlier, before the popular belief had reached or persuaded him. 

[31] It appends to the Martyrdom an account of a 
miracle, perhaps suggested by the historical account of the 
dignity with which the Archbishop fell " like one praying." 
The germ of it appears in Anon. II., which added that he 
fell, "fortifying himself with the sign of the Cross." The 
present writer goes further : " Also, as I have learned from 
men's veracious report, the body, long dead, arose, and 
signed itself, and those who stood by, with the sign of the 
life-giving cross, and again fell to the ground." As a whole, 
the narrative is of little value except as proof that a short 
and early tradition may sometimes be both vague and tame, 
yet more inaccurate, and more given to legend, than much 
later compositions. 

[32] (11) Anon. X. (Mat. iv. 431 sq.} is a composite 
work, being apparently a discourse on the day of St. Thomas 
of Canterbury, together with an appendix on his miracles. 
In the discourse, the words describing the facts are mostly 
borrowed ; but the commentary, in which he draws a moral 
from the facts, is (so far as we know) the preacher's own. 
It refers to the history " of that wise Englishman who has 
related all these things in order," meaning John of Salisbury. 
By its mention of English men and writings, and its con- 
trast between " Anglici regis furorem " and " gloriosissimum 
Ludovicum regem Francorum," it would seem to be the 
work of a foreigner. It borrows from Grim and others, and 
sometimes spoils in the borrowing, altering, for example, 
Grim's " them that kill the body (interfectores carnis] " into 
" murderous dogs (interfectores canes]" 15 and William's 

15 See 44. It must be admitted, however, that Grim himself, when pre- 
viously describing the landing of the four knights at "the port of Dogs," had 


" praecurrere " into " percurrere," and elsewhere injuring the 
sense in the attempt to abridge. 

[33] But if the writer is a foreigner, he must have 
included, without acknowledgment, and without altering 
the first person plural, a statement apparently made by the 
monks of Canterbury about a redness in the sky on the 
night of the Martyrdom : " However, a few days afterwards, 
came the prior of Ely from the other side of the sea (trans- 
marinis partibus) 16 asking whether the air had appeared 
blood-red to us on the day of the Passion, asserting that 
when he was at Rouen he had seen an excessive redness 
in the air, in company with other witnesses innumerable, 
who wondered greatly and believed it to be a miracle 
(signum)." 17 

[34] It uses the Archbishop's death to point a moral on 
the power of the priests : " Learn thou that the priests shut 
heaven and open it for thee, and that they are above, not 
below, the power of man." In transcribing some of the 
Miracles of Benedict's book, it inserts, beside other slight 
alterations, a passage extolling the power of the Virgin 
Mary. 18 Its close verbal imitation of Grim, Benedict, and 
others, indicates a comparatively late date. 

used the expression (Mat. ii. 429) "canes ipsi, ex tune, et miseri (non milites) 

16 So the four knights are said to come to Canterbury "ex transmarinis 

17 Fitzstephen also mentions this " redness " in a high-flown passage (Mat. iii. 
142) "avertit sol oculos," etc. But as the murder took place (Mat. ii. 19) 
about 5 P.M. on 2gth December, when the sun sets about 4 P.M., it is hard to 
see how the sun could be said to " turn aside his eyes, hide his rays, darken the 
day, lest he should look on this sin." Stanley (p. 98) suggests that it was the 
aurora borealis lighting up the midnight sky. But if this had been the case, 
would not more writers have referred to it ? More probably, it is an instance of 
error, arising from metaphorical language drawing a parallel between the martyr- 
dom of Thomas and the crucifixion of Christ (439). 

18 Mat. iv. 440. 

39 HIS DEATH 25 

4. Gamier, and the Saga 

[35] (12) Gamier, a clerk of Pont Sainte Maxence in 
Picardy, says, in his Prologue, that whoever wishes to hear 
the truth about the life of the Holy Martyr without fault or 
falsehood will find it in his poem about which he has " spent 
four years in composing and perfecting!' 

[36] At first, he wrote in the fervour caused by the fresh 
news of the Martyrdom. Consequently, he says, he " often 
' lied." But, in this imperfect state, his poem was stolen 
from him by a scrivener, and copies were bought by many 
rich people before he had time to " temper the bitter and 
the sweet," or to complete and correct it " with lies in some 
places, and lacking in fullness." So he went to Canterbury. 
There he heard the truth, and " culled it from the friends of 
St. Thomas and from those who had served him from child- 
hood." Now, he says, people will be able to find in his 
book the truth, and the full truth. 

[37] From what point is the period of " four years " to 
date ? So far, in the context as given above, it dates most 
naturally from the commencement of his first and uncor- 
rected draft, and not from the visit to Canterbury, which is 
mentioned afterwards, and as to which he gives no date here. 
In that case, the poem would be finished early in 1175. 

[38] In his Epilogue, the poet says that he often read 
his poem at the tomb in Canterbury : " At Canterbury it 
was both composed and corrected." Then, as to the date : 
"In the second year from the killing of the Saint in the 
church I began this story . . . and in the fourth I finished it." 

[39] This will harmonize with the Prologue, if the "four 
years" there mentioned include the whole time spent on the 
poem including the first draft of it begun immediately after 
the Martyrdom : and thus the view above suggested will be 
confirmed namely, that the poem was completed in the 
early part of 1175. It must certainly have been completed 



after the summer of 1 174, as it describes Henry's penitential 
visit to the Martyr's tomb : but no internal evidence is 
alleged, of such a nature as to require a later date. 1 

[40] (13) The Saga is of much later date than any of 
the non- anonymous compositions above mentioned. It 
shews acquaintance with the early Quadrilogus, published in 
1 1 99. But it also borrows from other traditions not now 
extant, and that these may have been very early is shewn 
by the fact that before the end of the twelfth century, the 
life of the Archbishop was eagerly studied in Iceland, and 
poems on the subject were current, " either in Latin or in 
Icelandic." 5 

1 [39] Magnusson says (Saga, ii. p. Ixxxvii. ) "he went to Canterbury, in 
1172, . . . After four years' labour, he had, in 1176, finished his ' Sermun.' ..." 
This takes "the fourth year" to mean "the fourth from beginning the poein 
at Canterbury." But the context appears to be against this, and to support the 
earlier date, 1175. The full context in Prologue and Epilogue will enable 
readers to judge for themselves. 


Se vuleiz escuter la vie al saint martyr, 
Ci la purreiz par mei plenerement oir. 
N'i voil rien trespasser, ne rien n'i voil mentir. 
Quatre aunz i ai bien mis, al fere et al furnir, 
D'oster et de remettre poi la peine soffrir. 

Primes treitai de joie, et suvent i menti ; 
A Chantorbire alai ; la verite 01 ; 
Des amis saint Toma la verite cuilli, 
Et de eels ki 1'aveint des 1'enfance servi. 
D'oster et de remettre le travail en suffri. 

Mes eel primer romaunz m'unt escrivein emble, 
Ainceis ke jo 1'eusse parfet et amende, 
Et 1'amer et le duz adulci et tempre. 
Et la u j'oi trop mis, ne 1'oi encor oste, 
Ne le plus ne le meins, esres ne ajuste. 

Par lius est menchunges et saunz plenerete, 
Et ne por quant i ad le plus de verite. 
Et maint riche hume 1'unt acquis et akate. 
Mes cil Ten deivent estre, qui 1'emblerent, blame. 
Mes cestui ai del tut amende et fine 1 . 

Tut cil autre romaunz, c'un ad fet del martyr, 
Clerc u lai, muine u dame, mult les i oi mentir ; 
Ne le veir, ne le plein, ne les i oi furnir. 
Mes ci porreiz le veir et tut le plein oir, 
N'istrai de verite, pur perdre u pur murir ! 

11. 141-165. 
2 Saga, ii. p. xxii. 


Guarniersli clers del Punt fine-ci sun SERMUN 
Del jnartir saint Thomas et de sa passiun ; 
Et mainte feiz le list a la tumbe al barun : 
Ci n'a mis un sul mot, se la verite non. 
De ses mesfez Ii face Jhesu Ii pius pardon ! 

Ainc mes mieldre romanz ne fu fez, ne trovez ; 
A Cantorbire fu et fet et amendez ; 
N'i a mis un sul mot qui ne seit veritez. 
Li vers est d'une rime en cine clauses coplez. 
Mis languages est buens ; car en France fui nez. 

L'an secund que Ii Sainz fu en 1'iglise ocis 
Comenchai cest roman, et mult m'en entremis ; 
Des privez saint Thomas la verite apris ; 
Meinte fez en ostai 50 que jo ains escris, 
Pur oster la mencunge, et al quart, fin i mis. 

Igo sachent tut cil ki ceste vie orrunt 
Que pure verite par tut oir purrunt ; 
E 90 sachent tut cil qui del Seint treitie unt, 
Ou Romanz ou Latin, et cest chemin ne vunt, 
Ou el dient que jo, cuntre verite sunt. 

Or priun Jhesu Crist le fil seinte Marie, 
Pur amur seint Thomas, nus doinst la sue aie ; 
Ke rien ne nus suffraigne a la corporal vie, 
Et si nus esneium de seculer folie 
K'al moriant aium la sue conpaignie ! 

11. 5811-5835- 



I. Introduction 

[41] THE murder in the Cathedral was preceded by an 
interview between the Archbishop and the four murderers in 
the adjacent archiepiscopal Palace. This has been omitted 
by John of Salisbury, and passed over most briefly by the 
prolix Herbert of Bosham. But the most trustworthy 
authorities tell us that Becket received the knights dis- 
courteously and contemptuously, not deigning at first to 
notice their presence or to discontinue his conversation with 
a monk to whom he happened to be talking at the moment 
of their entrance. His discourtesy was only a return for 
theirs : but still, this, and the violence of word and gesture 
with which the Archbishop followed them to the door on 
their retirement, brought upon him the expostulations of 
John of Salisbury, which are recorded by Benedict, Anon. I., 
and Gamier. 1 

1 [41#] Possibly some of the Archbishop's chaplains differed from John. At 
all events, Fitzstephen, recounting the gross provocations that he received from the 
knights, says that he followed them to the door " asking them in temperate 
language (satis modeste) to release his knight," whom they were forcing to 
accompany them. There was certainly strong language on both sides. The 
knights proclaimed the Archbishop a traitor, and made the monks responsible for 
his safe keeping. This exasperated him. Benedict thus reports his reply : 
" What do you mean ? Do you think I want to sneak away (fuga labi) ? I will 
not run away for the king or for any man living. I did not come here to run 
away but to face the fury of cut-throats (grassantium rabiem) and the malice of 
impiety." "Good sooth," replied the knights, "by God's will, you shall not 
run away." 


[42] The Archbishop's last word to the knights had 
been, " You will find me here," which he uttered pointing to 
his throat, anticipating their murderous intentions. 2 Not 
unnaturally, therefore, when he returned to his seat, encour- 
aging his friends and attendants, he refused at first to leave the 
Palace. Meantime the retinue of the knights had been making 
their way into the outer courtyard. But the hall-doors, 
closed behind the knights after their retirement, prevented 
them from re-entering and would not yield to their assault. 
Then Robert de Broc, who had been custodian of the Palace 
during the Archbishop's exile, undertook to lead the knights 
in by another way through a window, breaking down a party- 
wall. It is at this point that the following narratives begin. 3 

2. The different accounts 

[43] (i) (Grim) Without delay the murderers return, with 
hauberks, swords, hatchets and axes, and other implements 
suitable for the accomplishment of the crime. And finding the 
doors barred, and not opened at their knocking, they turn aside 
by a less public way through an orchard to a wooden barrier, 
hacking, and cleaving, and crashing it away. Frightened by 
the uproar and terrible crashing, the servants, and almost all the 
clerks, like sheep before wolves, scattered in every direction. 

[43] (i) (Grim) Nee mora, redeunt carnifices in loricis, cum gladiis securi- 
busque et bisacutis, et caeteris utensilibus commodis ad scelus quod animo 
conceperant peragendum. Cumque obserata ostia reperissent, nee pulsantibus 
aperiretur, secretion quodam aditu per pomerium ad ligneum obstaculum 
divertentes, scindunt, caedunt, et diruunt. Quo fragore terribili ac tumultuoso 
tremefacti servientes ac clerici fere omnes velut oves ante faciem luporum, hac 
illacque dispersi sunt. 

2 Mat, ii. 433, iv. 73. 

3 In these extracts, words describing fact are given fully. But moral infer- 
ences and comments are mostly omitted, the omissions being, in each case, 
indicated in the usual way. 

Those comments are inserted which reveal a bias that may modify narration 
of fact, e.g. comparisons between the Martyrdom and the Crucifixion. 

In the translation, the English is sometimes sacrificed to the Latin where it 
is necessary to bring out minute differences of expression in the several accounts. 

44 HIS DEATH 29 

[44] Those who remained cried to him to fly to the 
church. But he, mindful of his former promise namely, 
that he would not through fear of death flee from these 
mere killers of the flesh l rejected flight. . . . But the 
monks still pressed him, urging that it was not seemly that 
he should absent himself from vespers which were just at 
that time going on in the church. Still he remained un- 
moveable, deliberately determining to await in a less sacred 
spot 2 that blessed hour of consummation which he had 
craved with many sighs and sought with fervent prayers : 
[fearing] lest, as has been said, reverence for the sanctity of 
the sacred building might both restrain the impious from 
effecting their purpose and also cheat the Saint himself 
of the fulfilment of his heart's desire. For being confident 
that after martyrdom he would pass out of this miserable 
existence, he is reported 3 to have said in the hearing of 
many, after his return from exile, " Ye have already here a 
martyr, Elphegus, well-beloved of God, and a true Saint. 
Another will the Divine compassion provide for you. It 
will not delay . . ." 

[44] Acclamantibus autem qui remanserant ut in ecclesiam fugeret, memor 
ille promissi prioris, metu videlicet mortis non se fugiturum carnis 1 inter- 
fectores, fugam renuit. . . . Insistunt monachi, dicentes non decere ipsum 
vespertinis deesse laudibus, quae jam tune celebrabantur in ecclesia. Mansit ille 
immobilis, minoris reverentiae loco, 2 felicem illam ac multis praeoptatam suspiriis, 
multa devotione quaesitam, consummationis suae horam exspectare deliberans ; 
ne, sicut dictum est, aedis sacrae reverentia et impios arceret a proposito et 
sanctum cordis sui desiderio defraudaret. Certus namque quod ab hac miseria 
migraret post martyrium, postquam ab exsilio reversus est, multis audientibus 
dixisse fertur 3 " Habetis hie dilectum Deo ac vere sanctum martyrem Elfegum ; 
alium vobis divina miseratio providebit ; non morabitur ..." 

1 [44] Anon. X. (55) has "canes interfectores, those murderous dogs" a 
very graphic expression. But Grim is probably alluding to Matt. x. 28 "Be 
not afraid of them which kill the body." 

2 " Minoris reverentiae loco," i.e. in the palace as being less sacred than the 
cathedral and less likely to deter his enemies and to delay his martyrdom. The 
words are explained by what follows, ' ' lest reverence for the sacred building 
should hinder them from their purpose." 

3 [44#] " He is reported." According to Fitzstephen, the Archbishop (Mat. 


[45] (2) (Fitzstephen) Before this, Fitzstephen has de- 
scribed in detail the prearrangements of the knights. Their 
men had been collected in a great house just opposite the gate 
of the Archbishop's courtyard. They had already contrived 
quietly to introduce a few of these into the courtyard and had 
placed a gate-keeper of their own, Simon de Croil, removing 
the Archbishop's servant.^ William son of Nigel, the Arch- 
bishop's steward, is described before as carried off by the four 
knights from his presence, and as now aiding them. Reginald 
Fitzurse arms himself in the forecourt, and compels Robert 
Tibias the Archbishop's trencherman to assist him. This 
Reginald also took a hatchet from a carpenter repairing some 
steps there. Meanwhile, in the Archbishop's room, some de- 
clared there was no cause for fear. The knights, they said, 
must have been drunk, it was Christmas time, they had the 
pledge of the Kings peace and so on. Others said that there 
was good cause for alarm, and that there were many visible 
tokens of murderous intent. Meanwhile, they hear, from the 
side of the Cathedral, the lamentable outcries of the multitude, 
who knew what was going on, and who felt for the Archbishop's 
people, "as sheep for the slaughter'' On the other side, they 
could hear the servants in the palace going down the steps at a 
run towards the Cathedral, flying through the midst of the 
hall from the face of the armed men who were entering into 
the courtyard. The writer now continues as follows : 

[46] Osbert, and Algar, and certain other servants of 
the Archbishop, seeing that the armed men were rushing in, 

[45] See Mat. iii. 136, 137. 

[46] (2) (Fitzstephen) Osbertus et Algarus et quidam alii servientes archi- 

iii. 130) uttered these words in a sermon four days previously (Christmas day). 
Grim, who had " newly come " to the Archbishop, may not have heard the sermon. 
Describing it above, he mentions merely that part in which the Archbishop 
published excommunications. Gamier appears to attribute the saying (58) to 
" one of his clerks." 

4 [45a] Note, throughout, Fitzstephen's frequent mention of the Archbishop's 
servants, from whom he seems to have derived much of his information. 

48 HIS DEATH 31 

closed the hall door and barred it firmly. Seeing this, 
Robert de Broc began to hew away a kind of party-wall, 
and, getting in that way, threw open the hall door to those 
parricides, inflicting severe blows and wounds on those who 
had barred it. 

[47] We, too, we clerks, seated inside with the Arch- 
bishop, we heard these blows of Robert de Broc as he hewed 
away the party-wall. What but fear and trembling came 
on us, monks, and clerks, and companions of the Archbishop ! 
. . . But the good Thomas despised death. . . . Moreover 
also the holy man behaved as one free from all care, as 
though rejoicing that he had found an honourable cause to 
die for, [dying for] justice and liberty and the cause of his 
Church, and as though desiring to be dissolved and to be 
with Christ. . . . Then said the monks, a good many of 
whom were attending on him, " My lord, go into the church." 
" Never," said he ; " fear not ! Most monks are too timor- 
ous and fainthearted." 

(3) (John) Omits this. 

[48] (4) (William) So having planned to break into 5 the 
house, going out into the court, and letting in those whom 

episcopo, viso quod irruerent armati, ostium aulae clauserunt, et repaguli obice 
firmaverunt. Quod videns Robertus de Broch coepit securi diruere parietem 
quendam, et iliac ingressus per interiora domus, aulae ostium illis parricidis 
aperuit, et illos qui ostium aulae obfirmaverant, gravissime cecidit et vulneravit. 

[47] Audivimus etiam, nos clerici, introrsus cum archiepiscopo, ictus illos 
Roberti de Broc parietem diruentis. Quid nisi timor et tremor venerunt super 
nos, monachos, clericos, et socios archiepiscopi ? . . . Sed bonus ille Thomas 
contemptor mortis erat. . . . Insuper et securum se sanctus homo gerebat, quasi 
gaudens se nactum honestam causam moriendi pro justitia et libertate et causa 
ecclesiae suae ; et quasi cupiens dissolvi et esse cum Christo. . . . Tune monachi, 
qui plurimi aderant, dicunt ei, "Domine, intrate in ecclesiam." Ille : " Absit ; 
ne timeatis ; plerique monachi plus justo timidi sunt et pusillanimes." 

(3) (John) Omits this. 

[48] (4) (William) Igitur considerata imminutione 5 domus, exeuntes in 
curtim, et immitentes quos in facinus acciverant, sub moro ramosa loricis super- 

5 " Imminutione " seems to mean a violation of the sanctity of the house. 
" Curtim," soon afterwards, appears to mean a " courtyard." 


they had summoned for their enterprise, they cast aside under 
a branching mulberry tree the surcoats that had covered 
their hauberks, and with drawn swords assault the doors of the 
outer building which the servants, taking alarm, had barred. 

[49] Seeing themselves repelled there, under the guidance 
of that most wretched of clerks, Robert, who knew the 
passages, they rushed in by way of a shrubbery and found 
some steps, broken half-way, leading up to a postern door, 
where the workmen (after their manner) had left their tools, 
when they went away for their meal. Thence they found 
means for breaking open locks ; and, climbing up by ladders 
instead of steps, with none to resist them, they force an 
entrance. And that excellent Champion of God awaited 
the hour of his Passion. [Here William inserts an account of 
a vision of his future martyrdom supposed to tiave been seen by 
the Archbishop during his exile at Pontigny] . . . Consequently 
no exhortations, no prayers, no, nor the tears of his friends 
could move him from the spot, 

[50] (5) (Benedict). But some ran to warn the Arch- 
bishop, shouting, " My lord, my lord, they are arming." " Why 
care for that ? " replied he : " let them arm." Along with 
their detestable crew was that son of perdition, Robert de 
Broc 6 . . . Under the guidance of the aforesaid Robert, 

indutas vestes abjiciunt, gladiisque exsertis in ostia domus exterioris quam pueri 
metuentes obseraverant, impingunt. 

[49] Ubi videntes se repelli, duce miserrimo clericorum Roberto, scito 
diverticulorum, irruentes a virgulto posticii gradus interruptos inveniunt ubi 
architecti (sicut fit) ad necessaria digressi ferramenta sua reliquerant. Hinc ad 
infringendas seras occasione sumpta, scalis pro gradibus nitentes, nemine resistente, 
aditus irrumpunt. Et egregius athleta Dei securus horam suae passionis exspecta- 
bat. . . . Igitur non hortatu, non prece, non lachrymis suorum, loci (sic, ? loco) 
moveri poterat, 

[50] (5) (Benedict) Praecurrentes vero aliqui ad archiepiscopum clamabant : 
" Domine, domine, armant se." At ille, " Quae cura? sinite armare." Erat in 
detestanda illorum societate perditionis ille filius, Robertus de Broc 6 . . . ducatu 

6 [50a] Benedict here inserts, in effect, "whom he had excommunicated." 
The Early Quadrilogus, having previously described the excommunication, from 

51 HIS DEATH 33 

they speedily turned off to a less public flight of steps, by 
which there was a way of getting down from an outer 
chamber into an orchard ; and, having broken down a 
window, they also unbarred the door. And 7 when the brave 
Champion of God was warned to flee by the cries of his 
servants who came running from all sides, he counting 
nothing more contemptible than to fear death in fighting for 
Christ's cause would neither change place nor purpose. 
Even when the clerks urged him, as well as the monks, and 
with all their power exhorted flight, he \_mindful of his former 
promise, namely, that he would not, through fear of death, flee 
from these mere killers of the flesh 8 ] sat none the less intrepid, 
not knowing what it was with those who " believe for a 
time " to " fall away in time of temptation." 9 

[51] (6) (Herbert) So the knights having now armed, 
and having collected a cohort with swords and staves, 10 began 

praefati Robert! ad gradus quosdam secretiores, per quos de thalamo exteriori in 
pomerium erat descensus, quantocius diverterunt, proximaque fenestra demolita, 
ostium etiam reserarunt. Quumque 7 fortissimo Dei athletae a praecurrentibus 
famulis undique acclamatum esset ut fugeret, ille, cui nihil vilius erat quam 
mortem timere pro Christo, nee loco nee animo motus est. Instantibus etiam tarn 
clericis quam monachis, et oppido ilium ad fugam hortantibus, \memor ille promissi 
prioris, metu videlicet mortis se non fugiturum carnis interfectores*\, nihilominus 
sedebat intrepidus, nesciens, cum his qui " ad tempus credunt in tempore 
tentationis recedere." 9 

[51] (6) (Herbert) Militibus itaque armatis, et collecta cohorte cum gladiis 
et fustibus, 10 per fenestras palatii coacervatim jam coeperunt irruere. . . . Illi 

Herbert, now, quoting Benedict, has " whom, as we have said, he had excom- 
municated." Hence, some have inferred that Benedict wrote a life, now lost, 
in which he described the excommunication. But it is more probable that the 
composers of the Quadrilogus inserted the phrase in reference to their extract 
from Herbert, appropriating, as it were, both extracts as their own work. The 
editor who first printed the Early Quadrilogus (Lupus by name) omits "as we 
have said." See Mat. ii. 10, iv. 393. 

7 [5(V>] "And when." We should have expected "But when ..." But 
this Hebraic use of "and" is frequent in Benedict's writings. 

8 These bracketed words are probably an interpolation from Grim. They are 
not inserted by Lupus, nor by two other MSS. 9 Luke viii. 13. 

10 "Cohort," and "swords and staves," are used by Herbert in order to 
suggest a comparison with the arrest of Christ. 

VOL. i 3 


to rush into the palace in crowds through the windows. . . . 
But those who sat in the chamber with the Archbishop, 
hearing the uproar and the crashing outside, and by this 
time understanding what it all meant, were not unreasonably 
terrified ; and they now began to advise the Archbishop to 
betake himself to a more sacred and secure place, meaning 
the church. Again and again did he refuse, in his fearless- 
ness of death, 

[52] (7) (Anon. I.) Meanwhile the knights, having come 
out [of the palace], put on their armour to attack an unarmed 
man. For the rest of the knights (or, soldiers), who had 
waited outside while these (i.e. the four knights) were talking 
with the man of God, had come with hauberks on, under 
their surcoats. 11 When word of this was brought to the 
Archbishop, the monks said to him, " My lord, come into 
the church : for these men are making themselves ready to 
take or kill you." " I do not fear them," he replied, " I' will 
await here God's pleasure." But the knights, being now 
made ready, with terrible shouts and noise approached the 
hall doors. Finding them barred, they tried with all their 
force to break them from their hinges, but could not succeed. 

vero qui in thalamo cum archipraesule consederunt, audientes tumultum exterius 
et fragorem, et jam advertentes quid hoc, non sine causa exterriti sunt, monentes 
jam archipraesulem ut in locum sanctiorem et tutiorem, ecclesiam videlicet, se 
reciperet. Quo iterum et iterum renuente, tanquam mortis intrepido, 

[52] (7) (Anon. I.) Interim egressi armis se munierunt inermem aggressuri. 
Caeteri enim milites qui foris expectaverant dum illi cum viro Dei loquerentur, 
sub tunicis suis loricati venerant. 11 Quod cum nuntiatum fuisset ei, dixerunt 
monachi ad eum, " Domine, veni in ecclesiam ; nam homines isti vel ad captionem 
vel ad interfectionem tuam se praeparant." Et ille ait "Non timeo eos : hie 
exspectabo quicquid Deo placuerit." Milites vero jam parati cum terrore et 
strepitu ad januas aulae accesserunt : quas, obseratas reperientes, nulla vi, quan- 
quam id totis nixibus tentaverint, effringere potuerunt. Erat autem cum eis 

11 [52a] Gamier makes a similar statement (560) about " the knights without." 
Perhaps he intends a distinction between (560) " chevalier " and (56^) " bacheler." 
Anon. I., differing from William (48), implies that the four knights had not their 
armour on in the palace. Gervase's statement (396), " apparuerunt loricati," 
may apply to the four knights, or to those "without." There may be some 
confusion between the four knights and their attendant knights or soldiers. 

53 HIS DEATH 35 

Now they had with them one Robert de Broc, who knew 
all the entrances and side-passages of the building, ... So 
under his guidance they came through the orchard 12 and as 
far as the (arched) chamber. 13 But when even there they 
could not find ingress, the above-mentioned Robert mounted 
up through a portico (which was being repaired) in order 
to open the doors. Perceiving them to be close at hand, 
those who were within, [sitting] with the man of God, 
all fled, except some monks, and a clerk named Master 

[53] (8) (Anon. II.) Meantime there was a great rush of 
the king's knights u into his courtyard, and no small din of 
armed men, so that the Archbishop's door-keepers, in just 
alarm, closed the doors and barred them against the onrush 
and assault. . . . Disturbed and terrified by the uproar and 
noise, the crowd of clerks and monks that surrounded the 

quidam Robertus de Broc, qui omnes aditus et diverticula domus noverat. . . . 
Eo igitur ducente, venerunt per pomerium 12 et usque ad cameram 13 pervenerunt. 
Sed cum nee ibi ingressum invenirent (subj. " milites "), ascendit praedictus 
Robertus per deambulatorium quod ibi de veteri renovabatur ut aperiret ostia. 
Quos adesse sentientes qui intus cum viro Dei erant, omnes fugerunt praeter 
aliquot monachos et unum clericum, cui nomen magister Edwardus. 

[53] (8) (Anon. II.) Factus est interim satellitum 14 in atrium ejus concursus, 
et armatorum fragor non minimus, ita ut, justo timore percussi, domus archiepi- 
scopalis custodes januas ad concurrentium impetum clauserint et obstruxerint. . . . 
Tumultu vero strepituque motus ac territus clericorum monachorumque circum- 

12 " Orchard (pomerium) " should be " pomarium " (as one MS. reads here). 
" Pomerium " is properly a " verge round a city wall." But " pomerium " means 
"orchard " in Mat. ii. no, "in pomerio amoenissimo. " 

13 [52^] "The chamber," or "a chamber." But it looks as though the 
writer (see 56/>) had a special chamber in his mind. Anon. I. seems to have 
received these details from some servant of the Archbishop's, forced to accompany 
the knights ; and hence the attempts to enter from without are placed before us 
more vividly than the noise of breaking through " windows," or " barriers," 
or "party-walls," which would be heard from within. The hearing of the noise 
is implied, rather than expressed, in the following words ("perceiving them to be 
close at hand "). 

14 " Satellitum," lit. the attendants, here the King's attendants, is used by 
several writers to denote the four knights. Compare "count," i.e. "comes," 
meaning originally "companion." 


Archbishop could scarcely persuade him, nay, could scarcely 
even compel him, to betake himself to the church. 

(9) (Anon. IV.) Omits this. 

[54] (10) (Anon. V.) Then they . . . departed, retiring 
no great way from the door of the palace. Nay, in the 
episcopal court itself, donning their armour, they prepared 
themselves for returning. Seeing this, those who were 
round the Bishop (sic) 15 besought him to seek the safer refuge 
of the monastery. But he replied, " It is not fitting, my 
brethren, that the church should be polluted with the blood 
of sinners. It is better to wait here. Whatever is in store 
must be patiently endured." 

[55] (n) (Anon. X.) Without delay they return with 
hauberks, and swords, and hatchets, and axes, and other 
implements suitable for breaking open bolts and doors, 
and for the perpetration of the crime they had planned. 
But as the servants had taken precautions and (without 
the Archbishop's knowledge) had shut them out of the 
palace, they turn aside to a wooden barrier, and hack, and 
cleave, and crash it away. [Twice, yea,] thrice, did his 

fusorum archiepiscopo coetus vix ei suadere potuerunt, immo vix impulerunt, ut 
in ecclesiam se conferret. 

(9) (Anon. IV.) Omits this. 

[54] (10) (Anon. V.) Illi vero . . . abierunt, non longe ab ostio domus 
recedentes. Immo in ipsa episcopal! curia se armantes redire paraverunt. Quod 
videntes qui circa episcopum (sic) 15 erant, quatenus tutiora loca monasterii peteret 
oraverunt. At ille "Non decet," inquit, "fratres mei, ecclesiam peccatorum 
sanguine pollui, sed potius exspectandum hie ; quicquid imminet, patienter 
ferendum est." 

[55] ( 1 1 ) (Anon. X. ) Nee mora ; redeunt in loricis cum gladiis et securibus 
et bisacutis et aliis utensilibus commodis ad seras et ostia confringenda, et ad 
scelus quod in animo conceperant perpetrandum. Sed praecaventibus famulis et 
eos, ignorante archipraesule, excludentibus, ad ligneum obstaculum divertentes, 
caedunt, scindunt et diruunt. Cumque a suis undique et ter acclamatum ut in 

16 Both here and below (chap, vi.) this writer uses "bishop "for "arch- 
bishop." Here, " circa ar^z'episcopum " might have caused a scribal omission. 
It is not so easy to explain (in chap, vi.) "iisque ad episcopum " for " ad archi- 
episcopum." In French, ' ' arcevesque " might be more easily taken for ' ' al evesque. " 

56 HIS DEATH 37 

friends cry to him from all sides to fly to the Minster ; but 
he, having formerly promised that he would not fly from 
those murderous dogs, 16 now kept his word in manly fashion. 

[56] (12) (Gamier) Meanwhile the knights armed 
themselves there without, And stripped their coats, 17 and girt 
on their swords of steel, For all came armed, each on 
his steed of war, Quickly were they prepared to begin 
great evil ; Very quick was he that went to tell the Arch- 
bishop. " Sire," said the monks, " go to the Minster, Now 
are they singing vespers ; you should not be absent, 
These knights desire to take or slay you." " No whit for 
that," replied he, " will ye see me dismayed. Here will I 
await all that God shall judge [best] for me." 

When they had armed themselves, those four young 
knights, They come to the doors of the hall, but could not 
enter : For they had been well barred beforehand, after 

monasterium fugeret, ille, qui se ante non fugiturum canes 16 interfectores 
promiserat, virilius implet promissum. 

[56] En dementiers s'armerent Ik hors li che- II chauntent ore vespres, n'es deussez leissier ; 

valier, Cil chevaler vus voelent u prendre u de- 

Et osterent les cotes, 1 ? ceinstrent les branz trenchier," 

d'acier ; " Ne me verrez pur 50," fet-il, " rien esmaier ; 

Kar tut vindrent arme, chascuns sur sun destrier, Ci attendrai tut 50 que Deus m'i volt jugier." 

Tost furent aprest6 de grant mal commencier. Quant se furent arme li quatre bacheler, 

Assez fu ki 1'ala 1'arcevesque nuncier. Vunt ad us de la sale ; mes n'i porent entrer, 

" Sire," funt-li li moine, " alez en eel mustier, Kar un les out ainz fet, apres els, bien barrer. 

16 Probably (44#) the writer has misread Grim's "carnis" as "canes." But 
Theobald, Count of Blois, calls the four murderers (Mat. vii. 434) "those 
courtier dogs (canes aulici)." 

17 [56#] See Anon. I. above, who makes a similar statement about other 
attendant knights but not about the four, whom he appears to describe as 
having come without their armour on, into the palace. Perhaps Gamier, too, 
implies a distinction between the ' ' knights there without " (who had their armour 
on already, under their "coats," so that they had nothing to do except strip off 
their "coats" and gird on their swords) and the four knights who now came out 
and armed themselves. In any case Anon. I. is probably right. Fitzurse would 
not have needed the enforced assistance of Robertus Tibias (see Fitzstephen, 
above, 45) to help him to gird on his sword. But to put on a hauberk was a 
more difficult matter. 

" Assez " (three lines below) seems to require the repetition of "tost apreste," 
so as to mean "very [quickly prepared]." Or is it an error for "assi," i.e. 


them. Then began they violently to beat upon the doors : 
For they wished to take the Saint and wound him to the 
death. When they could not by force break down the doors, 
Robert de Broc, who knew how to devise all the evil, 18 said 
" Follow me now, my lords and noble knights, I will let you 
in there by another way." By the way of the kitchen did 
they enter, in the orchard. 19 At the door of the chamber 20 
was an oriel closed, (Right over against the garden) which 
had been [so] for many a day. To renew this, the steps 
had been just then taken down, And the carpenters had 
gone to their dinner. To this oriel did the knights turn. 
By this way enters Robert de Broc to the [inner] cham- 
bers ; By ladders did the knights mount up. The tools of 
the workmen who made the steps, An axe and hatchets 
did they carry with them, To break down the door if 
they found it shut. 

[57] When the people of St. Thomas heard them come, 
As sheep before wolves they made haste to flee : Even as 
the Apostles when they saw Jesus seized By Pilate's band 
Jesus, who, in order to die, Had come into the world, 
to found His Church. There was not one left of all his 
servants, Save a few of his clerks, of whom he had many 

Dune commencent as us durement a buter : Par iluec est as chaumbres Roberz del Broc 

Kar il voleient prendre le saint et decolper. entrez, 

Quant ne porent les us par force depescier, A eschieles i ad les chevaliers muntez ; 

Roberz del Broc, qui sot tut le mal engigner J 8 : Les ustilz as ovrers qui firent les degrez, 

"Or m'en siwez," fet-il, "seignur franc che- Besagiie et cuingnies en unt od els portez, 

valier ; Pur depescier les us, s'es trovassent fermez. 

Jo vus mettrai laenz par un altre sender." [57] Quant la gent saint Thomas les oi'rent 

Par de vers la cuisine sunt entre el vergier 19 . venir, 

Al us de la chaumbre 2 out un oriol ferme, Come berbiz pur lous s'enpristrent a fulr : 

Dreit devers le gardin, qui out maint jur este ; Si come li apostre, quant il virent saisir 

Pur refere erent dune abatu li degre, La meisnie Pilate Jhesu, qui pur murir 

E li charpentier erent a lur disner aid. Esteit venuz el mund, pur s'Iglise establir. 

A eel oriol sunt 15 chevalier turne. Ne remist la un sul de trestuz ses serganz, 

18 "All the evil," i.e. this evil plot. Or (?) "all evil"? "Laenz" is a 
variant of "laiens," i.e. la, ici. 

19 Vergier." Perhaps this French word, with its double meaning, induced 
William to use "virgultum." The others have "orchard." 

20 [56^] "The chamber." The writer does not say what "chamber." 
Does this confirm the view that "camera," above, (52^) means " the chamber"? 

58 HIS DEATH 39 

and brave there, And only Master Grim, and monks I know 
not how many, These seized 20 St. Thomas, who still 
kept sitting, And waiting for death and the end of his 

[58] For since he had come back from exile across the 
sea, He said, in the hearing of many whom I have heard 
relate it, That he would die in that year ; he could well 
affirm it. Now were there but two days of the year to 
pass. The third was almost gone, whereon he was to end 
[his life]. But on Christmas day men heard him avow, in 
the hearing of many who were there to hear his discourse : 
" Here am I," said he, " come among you to suffer death." 
Now was come the day that was ordained for his consum- 
mation, And both his life and death made him a holy 
martyr. Nay also, at the end of his discoursing, One of his 
clerks said, in prophesying, Alexander of Wales, in the 
hearing of many of the [Archbishop's] people " Canterbury 
has one martyr, St. Elphege, in truth ; Another will it have, 
if God will, and that, presently." 2 

Fors un poi de ses clers, dunt i out mult vail- Li tierz est pres alez, ou il deveit finer. 

lanz, Mes le jur de Noel li oi'-l'un gehir, 

Et sul mestre Edwart Grim, et moines ne sai Oiant plusurs, qui erent pur sun sermun oir : 

quanz, " Ci sui," fet-il, " venus entre vus mort suffrir " ; 

Qui pristrent saint Thomas, qui uncore ert Or ert venuz li jurs ke 1'covint accomplir, 

seianz, E sa vie et sa mort 1'unt fet mult halt martir. 
Et atendeit iluec mort et fin de ses anz. Nis idunc a la fin de sun sermonement 

[58] Car puis k'il repeira d'issil d'ultre la Ad dit uns de ses clers, en profetisement, 

mer, Alisandre de Guales, oiant mult de la gent : 

Dist-il, oianz plusurs, cui 1'ai o'i cunter, " Chaienz a un martir, saint Elphe, veirement ; 

Qu'il moreit en eel an, buen le sout afermer ; Un autre en i aurez, se Deu plest, a present." - 1 
Or n'i ot mes de 1'an que dous jurs a passer ; 

200 "Seized." Gamier uses this word twice (11. 5570-1) for "seize." So 
above in 1. 5322 " enpristrent " seems to be from " emprendre " (like "entre- 
prendre "), and to mean literally "took in hand." See Etienne, p. 220. 

21 The meaning seems to be that Alexander was inspired to say this. Grim, 
above (44), perhaps referring to Garnier's account, says, " It is said that he 
(i.e. the Archbishop}' 1 '' uttered the prophecy. Fitzstephen, after stating that the 
Archbishop preached on Christmas day, says (Mat. iii. 130) "And when he 
spoke about the holy Fathers of the church of Canterbury, who are [buried] there 
as confessors, he said that they had one martyr archbishop, St. Elphege, [and] 
that it was possible that they would shortly have a second also there." 


[59] For this cause waited he there and would not flee. 
For he was resolute 22 and quite ready to die. He thought 
that men would not dare to assail him in the Minster. For 
this cause he waited there and would not shrink from 
death. But God would have him die in a better place. 

[60] (13) (The Saga) When the knights come to their 
followers, they put on armour as if they were about to enter 
the brunt of a battle, declaring in clear words to all their 
accomplices that they are minded to set on the archbishop ; 
" for we deem he is a doomed man, by reason of that folly 
which is manifestly in him." Of the armour of the four 
knights it is told that they bore both bole-axes and swords, 
but one of them carried a halberd and a sword, bole-axes 
for the purpose of breaking or cutting open chambers, 
wheresoever they should come upon them, and besides 
these, other instruments of war, hard and two-edged, for 
breaking down walls or timber -work, in order that their 
wickedness should meet with all the less delay. And thus 
equipped they proceed up to the archbishop's court. 

[61] But when the servants of the holy Thomas see this, 
they put strong bolts on the court gate, but the others set 
on it in fury, beating and bellowing, cutting doors open and 
smashing whatever cometh across their path, so that from 
their tumult and noise, their egging and whooping, most 
people were filled with fright, outtaken the archbishop alone. 
He comforteth the sorrowing, and becometh as blithe as if 
the visitors had come to ask him to a bridal feast. Now 
when the hardihood of the knights may not prevail in 
bringing them into the palace, they get them for guide the 
clerk Robert of Brock, who by reason of his long sojourn 
there knew all passages within the court. 

[59] Pur c/atendi iluec et ne volt pas fuir ; Pur g'atendeit iluec, ne volt la mort guenchir. 

Car il ert aseur 22 et tut pres de morir ; Mes Deus le voleit fere en plus bel liu chair. 

Cuida k'un ne 1'osast el mustier assaillir. 11. 5291-5350. 

22 Godefroy gives " asseur " (var. "aseur ") = "sur," "assure." 

64 HIS DEATH 41 

[62] But the yelling and tumult, crashing and knocking 
with which they go on, is heard throughout all the chambers 
within the court. And even those who are now singing in 
the church at the first vespers blend their voices therewith 
in fear and awe. For this reason we mentioned first vespers, 
that the church of Canterbury has two services sung every 
day, that is to say, that of the monks and that of the clerks. 23 

These are the facts as stated by eye-witnesses and others nearest 
to the event. The reader may be interested in comparing with 
these the description of the scene in (i) Stanley's Memorials of 
Canterbury, and (2) Tennyson's Becket, Italics call attention to 
the passages where the modern writers differ from most of the 
ancient ones, or appear to have misinterpreted something in them. 

[63] (i.) (Stanley) The dialogue was interrupted by one 
of the monks rushing in to announce that the knights were 
arming. " Let them arm," said Becket. But in a few 
minutes the violent assault on the door of the hall, and the 
crash of a wooden partition in the passage from the orchard, 
announced that danger was close at hand. The monks, 
with that extraordinary timidity which they always seem to 
have displayed, instantly fled, leaving only a small body of 
his intimate friends or faithful attendants. They united in 
entreating him to take refuge in the cathedral. " No," he 
said, " fear not ; all monks are cowards" 

[64] (ii.) (Tennyson) 

GRIM (re-entering). My lord, the knights are arming in the garden 
Beneath the sycamore. 

BECKET. Good ! let them arm. 

GRIM. And one of the De Brocs is with them, Robert, 
The apostate monk that was with Randulf here. 
He knows the twists and turnings of the place. 

BECKET. No fear ! 

23 Apparently the object of the writer was to shew that the Archbishop was 
not late for vespers (98). There was first a service of vespers for the monks, 
and a second, immediately afterwards, for the clerks. The first was now going 
on. The Archbishop was presently conducted by his friends to the second. 


GRIM. No fear, my lord. 

[Crashes on the hall-doors. The MONKS flee. 

BECKET (rising). Our dovecot flown ! 
/ cannot tell why monks should all be cowards. 

JOHN OF SALISBURY. Take refuge in your own cathedral, Thomas. 

BECKET. Do they not fight the Great Fiend day by day ? 
Valour and holy life should go together. . 

Why should all monks be cowards ? 

JOHN OF SALISBURY. Are they so ? 

I say, take refuge in your own cathedral. 

BECKET. Ay, but I told them I would wait them here. 

GRIM. May they not say you dared not shew yourself 
In your old place ? and vespers are beginning. 

\^Bell rings for vespers till end of scene. 
You should attend the office, give them heart. 
They fear you slain : they dread they know not what. 

BECKET. Ay, monks, not men. 

GRIM. / am a monk, my lord. 

3. The " extraordinary timidity " imputed by Stanley to 
the monks 

[65] Both Stanley and Tennyson assert that the monks 
fled. Tennyson adds that John of Salisbury remained ; 
and that Grim himself was " a monk." 

First, as to the monks, Gamier (to whom Stanley refers 
in proof of his statement *) says that it was the servants that 
all fled. Those who remained were " a few " clerks, and monks 
" I know not how man}'" which means more than " a few." 
Grim, in his description of those who ran away, mentions 
" the servants, and almost all the clerks" but no " monks" 
Even Fitzstephen says that " a good many (plurimi) monks " 
were in attendance on the Archbishop to the last, in the 
palace. Anon. I. says that " all fled except several (aliquot) 
monks and one clerk, i.e. Grim." There is difference of 

1 Stanley's reference is to "Gamier 70 b. 16. " He mentions (p. 60) an 
edition published in 1838-44, and another in 1843, but not Hippeau (1859). 

68 HIS DEATH 43 

opinion as to the " clerks," 2 but concerning the " monks " 
there is no room for doubt at all. 

[66] Those whom Stanley and Tennyson describe as flying, 
and on whose cowardice they comment, are just those who did 
not fly, when the rest did. No doubt, Fitzstephen quotes, 
as the Archbishop's words, 3 "Most monks" Stanley and 
Tennyson, " all monks " " are too timid and fainthearted." 
But this was addressed to " the monks" the men who stood 
by him, when all others had fled. He was reproaching them 
for advising him to go to the Cathedral. If that was 
" cowardice," it was, at all events, not what Stanley, or 
Tennyson, or any ordinarily brave man, ought to have 
called " extraordinary timidity." Relatively to Becket, 
the monks may be called, by some, " cowards," by 
others, prudent ; relatively to all the rest, they were 

[67] Next, it is very doubtful whether John of Salisbury 
remained with the Archbishop when most of his clerks fled. 
It is also certain that Grim was not a monk. 4 

[68] The differences in the accounts of the forcible 
entry may arise, in part, from the fact that some give the 
view from without, some from within. Fitzstephen is 
ampler than the rest on the preliminary rush into the 
courtyard, and on the seduction or constraint of the Arch- 
bishop's servants by the knights. On this point, there were 

2 Did Fitzstephen and John (the Archbishop's "clerks") run away, or 
are they both included in the term "monks"? "Monks "or not, they do not 
appear to have been monks of the Canterbury Minster, who seem to be generally 
intended, throughout, under the term "monks." Once, describing the vespers, 
Fit/stephen uses the phrase (Mat. Hi. 138) "monks of the church," i.e. of the 
Canterbury Monastery or Abbey. 

3 See 47. Stanley gives also a reference for this to Anon. I. I can find 
no such words. 

4 Of course, also, Grim, a stranger in Canterbury, would not have known 
the De Brocs, and would not have been the messenger sent to inspect what 
was going on in the courtyard. But in a drama, the character needed to be 


probably jealousies and heartburnings, which, if we knew 
them, would explain his diffuseness. 5 

5 [68] For example, Gamier says that the Archbishop's seneschal, William 
Fitz-Nigel, on seeing the four knights in the hall, advanced to salute them with 
the greatest courtesy. Then, hastily returning to the Archbishop, without 
mentioning the arrival, he requested to be relieved from service, on the plea that 
he did not wish to incur the hatred of the King : and he then and there received 
permission to retire. 

Fitzstephen says that William Fitz-Nigel was compelled by the knights to 
accompany them from the Archbishop's presence, and that he appealed to Becket, 
"My lord, you see what they are doing with me." Possibly the seneschal felt 
himself aggrieved by Garnier's account, and the Archbishop's servants may have 
felt with him. Benedict, William, and Fitzstephen make no mention of the 
"servants" running away. But Benedict describes them as running into the 
room to bid him fly ; and Fitzstephen, as running through the hall from the men 
in the courtyard. 



I. The different accounts 

[69] (i) (Grim) But when neither arguments nor prayers 
could force him to take refuge in the church, the monks 
seized him in spite of his reluctance, and, between dragging, 
carrying, and pushing (without heeding his opposition and 
reproachful commands to let him go), they brought him as 
far as into the church. But the door, by which one passed 
into the cloister of the monks, happened to have been, several 
days before this, carefully barred up : and this fact [coming 
to mind just] when the torturers were pressing on their 
heels, utterly banished all hope of getting out. However, 
one [of them] ran [on before], and as soon as he touched 
the bolt, to the intense astonishment of all, he drew it out 
as if it had been attached by [nothing stronger than] glue. 

[70] (2) (Fitzstephen) They (the monks) would not 
acquiesce. Some cast hands on him and raise him from 

[69] (i) (Grim) At ubi nee ratione nee precibus persuader! potuit ut in 
ecclesiam refugeret, invitum ac renitentem arripiunt monachi, trahunt, portant, et 
impellunt, nee attendentes quanta convitiando opponeret, ut ipsum dimitterent, in 
ecclesiam usque perducunt. Ostium vero, per quod iter erat in claustrum 
monachorum, multis ante diebus diligentius obseratum, cum jam tortores a tergo 
insisterent, omnem prorsus evadendi fiduciam abstulit ; currens tamen unus, ubi 
primum seram contigit, non sine multa omnium admiratione tanta facilitate 
extraxit ac si glutino cohaesisset. 

[70] (2) (Fitzstephen) Illi non acquiescunt. Alii eum injectis manibus 


[his feet] and force him [onwards]. Others try to persuade 
him that he ought to go because he was to attend nones 
and vespers, and the monks were now saying vespers. So 
he orders the cross of the Lord to be carried before him. 1 
It was borne by a clerk of his, named Henry of Auxerre. 2 
When we had reached the monks' cloister, the monks wished 
to shut fast the door behind him. But he was displeased 
and would not allow it ; and he walked on slowly, last of 
all, driving all before him, like a good shepherd [driving] his 
sheep. For indeed fear was so cast out of him by love of 
God that there was no trace of it in his gesture or gait : it 
was as far off from all his outer region, so to speak, as from 
the inner citadel of his soul. Once, indeed, he turned his 
eyes back over his right shoulder, perchance in case he 
might see the King's men following his footsteps, perchance 
lest some one should bar the door. 3 

(3) (John) Omits this. 

[71] (4) (William) until, suggesting that the service of 
vespers must be sung, they applied violence to him, and, 

erigunt, et vim ei faciunt. Alii persuadent eundum esse, quia monachi jam 
vesperas dicerent, et ille horam nonam et vesperas esset auditurus. Jubet ergo 
crucem Domini proferri. 1 Quidam clericus ejus, Henricus Autissiodorensis, earn 
bajulat. 2 In claustrum monachorum cum venissemus, voluerunt monachi ostium 
post eum accludere. Ille aegre ferens non sustinuit, et lento passu postremus 
vadit, omnes agens ante se, quasi oves pastor bonus. Equidem timor, quern 
caritas Dei foras miserat, ejus nee in gestu nee in incessu poterat notari : tarn 
procul aberat ab omni ejus continentia exteriori, quam a mentis arce interior!. 
Semel quidem super dexteram oculos restorsit, forte si videret illos regales vestigio 
ejus imminentes, forte ne aliquis pessulum ostii obderet. 3 

(3) (John) Omits this. 

[71] (4) (William) . . ., donee de vespertina synaxi decantanda suggerentes 

1 "Proferri" ought rather to mean "to be brought forward," but seems used 
here for "praeferri." Benedict (72) has "praeferri." 

2 [70a] In spite of this express assertion, several traditions, followed by 
Tennyson, make Grim the cross-bearer. 

3 FUzstephen alone mentions Becket's refusal to allow the door that led from 
the palace to the cloister to be barred. Is he confusing it with the door that led 
from the cloister into the Cathedral ? Probably not. The remark that the Arch- 
bishop " looked back over the right shoulder " implies a keen observer of fact. 

72 HIS DEATH 47 

breaking (?) 4 the barred door that leads into the cloister, 
forced him on in spite of his resistance. Then step by step, 
and at a slow pace, he moved forward as though he volun- 
tarily awaited death. 5 

[72] (5) (Benedict) But the monks, a few of whom 
happened to be present, 6 breaking the bolt of the door that 
led to the church through the cloister, did their best to draw 
forth their father [in God], in spite of his unwillingness, by 
setting before him a very honourable reason for departing, 
namely, that it was the hour when he was bound to pay 
God due praises at vespers in the church. OtJiers cast hands 
on him and raise him from [his seat], and force him [onwards]? 
Then the Saint, not unmindful of the observance, even to 
the letter, of that command of the Lord, " Whoso will come 
after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and 
follow me," gave command that his cross should be borne 
before him. But having come out [of the palace], when 

vim inferrent ei, et ostium obseratam 4 (sic) quod in claustrum ducit infringentes (?), 
reluctantem propellerent. Inde pedetentim et lento gressu progressus est tanquam 
ultroneus mortem expectaret. 5 

[72] (5) (Benedict) Monachi vero, qui forte pauci aderant, 6 seram ostii, quod 
ad ecclesiam per claustrum ducebat, confringentes, patrem suum, licet invitum, 
educere satagebant, honestiorem ei discedendi causam proponentes, horam 
videlicet esse qua eum in ecclesia vespertinas Deo laudes oporteret exsolvere. 
Alii eum injectis manibus erigunt, et vim ei faciuntJ Tune sanctus, Dominicum 
illud praeceptum etiam ad litteram non immemor observare, Qui vult venire post 
me, abneget semetipsum, et tollat crucem suam et sequatur me," crucem suam 

4 "Obseratam . . . infringentes." The wrong gender might be a misprint, 
as the Editor gives eight or nine other confusions of -um and -am in his Corri- 
genda. But " infringere," which often means " snap off" is better applied to 
"snapping" a "bolt (seram) " than to "breaking down," or "breaking open," a 
door. Also Benedict and others speak of the "bolt." Probably therefore the 
text is corrupt, for " ostii obserati seram . . . infringentes." 

5 The brevity of this and of the preceding section suggests that William was 
by this time in the Cathedral, perhaps at vespers. 

Most of the monks of Canterbury would be in the Cathedral at vespers. 
7 [72a] The italicized words are, almost certainly, an interpolation from 
Fitzstephen. They are omitted by two MSS. and by Lupus. 


those who were conveying him were compelling him to 
quicken his pace, he stopped, as though he were ashamed 8 
of flight. Then, since the monks none the less persisted, and 
absolutely compelled him to go on whether because they did 
not treat him with their usual reverence, or because he wished 
to strengthen and comfort their hearts he kept saying to 
them " What means this, sirs ? What is your fear ? " 

[73] (6) (Herbert) , they at last with difficulty con- 
strained him to go to the church. Even in this moment of 
peril, the calm grace of his countenance remained absolutely 
unchanged. Neither in feature nor in gesture was there 
any trace of alarm. But when he had advanced some little 
distance and did not see the cross, which he had been wont 
to have borne before him, he had the cross-bearer summoned, 
and halted, waiting for the cross to precede him : in truth 
(as I take it) not unmindful of his Lord, who, with the cross, 
hastened to the cross. 9 

[74] (7) (Anon. I.) These, catching hold of the vener- 
able man (for he still remained sitting), began in spite of 

praeferri sibi praecepit. Egressus autem, cum a commeantibus accelerare 
cogeretur, quasi fugam erubescens, 8 gradum fixit. Instantibus autem nihilominus 
monachis, et ut procederet oppido compellentibus, sive quia irreverentius solito se 
haberent, sive ut suos confirmaret et consolaretur, haec eis verba saepius replica- 
bat : "Quid est hoc, domini, quid formidatis?" 

[73] (6) (Herbert) , vix tandem coegerunt ut ad ecclesiam pergeret, gratia 
vultus ejus, etiam in articulo hoc, nee vel in modico immutata ; adeo, sicut nee 
in vultu, sic nee in gestu ullum parebat trepidationis vestigium. Cum vero 
paullulum processisset, nee crucem videret quam ante se bajulare consueverat, 
accito crucis bajulo substitit, crucem exspectans ut praecederet ; revera, ni fallor, 
Domini sui non immemor, qui cum cruce properavit ad crucem. 9 

[74] (7) (Anon. I.) Hi apprehendentes venerabilem virum (adhuc enim sede- 
bat) coeperunt eum reluctantem et renitentem atque contradicentem inter manus 

8 Not (as Stanley) " changing colour." 

9 Herbert improves on Benedict, who above ("not unmindful" etc.) quoted 
Christ's words "Let him take up his cross." Now the Archbishop did not 
' ' take up his cross " ; for some one else carried it before him. Hence, Herbert 
likens the Martyr to the Saviour, who, though not bearing the cross (for Simon 
of Cyrene bore it), nevertheless went ''with the cross to the cross," i.e. to the 
place of Martyrdom or Crucifixion. 

75 HIS DEATH 49 

his resisting, and struggling, and refusing to carry him, by 
force of hand, to the church. But, on looking about, they 
saw the court full of armed men, and the orchard, and the 
customary ways to the church, blocked by soldiers. Then 
they were at their wits' end. Presently, they turned aside 
to another door, a private one, which had been long closed 
and barred so that none had passed through it. However, 
one of the monks ran on before the rest to try if by main 
force he could wrest the bar out of the socket. But as soon 
as he touched it, it slipped out altogether into his hands 
by Divine will, to the astonishment of himself and all present 
just as if it had not been fastened to the door. Then 
said the monk, " Catch hold of him and carry him this way." 
So they took him, and began to carry him, and did not let 
him go till they brought him to the church, within the walls. 
However, they had some halts before they came to the 
church, two in the cloister, and one in the chapter-house : 
for he kept angrily resisting and slipping out of their hands, 
not wishing them to carry him. 

[75] (8) (Anon. II.) He, however, was in nothing 
terrified, but like one utterly free from trouble, nay, carrying 
himself as though he counted the delaying of martyrdom to 
be a diminution of his reward. 

suas ad ecclesiam portare. Circumspicientes autem viderunt curiam plenam 
armatis, et pomerium, viasque quibus ad ecclesiam pergebatur, praeoccupatas 
militibus, et obstupuerunt. Tune diverterunt ad aliud ostium secretius, quod 
multo tempore clausum et obseratum nulli transitum praebuerat. Praecucurrit 
autem unus ex monachis, volens tentare si forte seram viribus effringere posset ; 
sed mox ut earn tetigit, divino nutu, mirante ipso et omnibus qui aderant, ita in 
manus ejus collapsa est ac si ostio minime adhaesisset. Tune monachus, 
" Apprehendite," inquit, " eum et apportate." Qui accipientes cum coeperunt 
portare, nee dimiserunt donee in ecclesiam eum introduxerunt. Substiterunt 
tamen antequam in ecclesiam venirent, bis in claustro, et semel in capitulo ; 
nam ipse irascens eis reluctabatur et elabebatur de manibus eorum, nolens se 
portari ab eis. 

[75] (8) (Anon. II.) In nullo tamen territus erat, sed velut omnino securus, 
immo sic agens quasi martyrii dilationem remunerationis suae diminutionem 

VOL. i 4 


(9) (Anon. IV.) , they (i.e. the knights) burst into the 
cloister of the monks, with a following of armed men, armed 
also themselves. By this time the Archbishop had gone 
before them, with all dignity and calmness, to the house of 
prayer, by the advice, or rather by the compulsion, of the 
monks, because of the solemn season, to perform the service 
of vespers when he looked back and saw them behind him, 
in the middle of the cloister, in arms. 

(10) (Anon. V.) Omits this. 

[76] (n) (Anon. X.) However, as the monks present 
constrained and impelled him, 10 he at last unwillingly arose, 
and, hastening to the cross [of martyrdom], commanded 
them to bring his cross. 11 

[77] (12) (Gamier) Then began they to lead him to 
the Minster 12 ; But needful it was for them to carry him 
almost by main force : Some you might have seen dragging, 
others pushing him ; But they [would have] had to go by 
the whole length of the wall Or through the doors that had 
been closed [against the knights], if they had wished to pass 

(9) (Anon. IV.) . . . claustrum monachorum irruperunt cum multa arma- 
torum sequela, et ipsi armati. lam praecesserat eos praesul cum modestia. et 
gravitate in oratorium, suadentibus monachis, immo compellentibus propter diem 
solennem, ad peragendam vespertinam synaxin, cum eos a tergo respiceret in 
medio claustri armatos. . . . 

(10) (Anon. V.) Omits this. 

[76] (n) (Anon. X.) Cogentibus tamen monachis qui affuerunt et impel- 
lentibus, 10 tandem invitus surrexit, et ad crucem maturans crucem sibi suam 
afiferre praecepit. 11 

[77] Idunc le commencierent al mustier & Les tins v&ssiez treire et les autres buter ; 

mener ; 12 Mes par mi 1'entier mur lur estoueit aler, 

Mes proef par vive force lur estoueit porter ; U par les us fermez, s'il volsissent passer. 

10 " Impellentibus," in Grim's context, clearly means "pushed." Anon. 
X., who perhaps borrows this word from Grim and the rest from Herbert, may 
use it metaphorically. 

11 This is probably borrowed from Herbert above, "cum cruce properavit 
ad crucem." 

12 [770] No mention of vespers (such as Fitzstephen, William, and Benedict 
make) is made here, as a reason for going. " Par mi," three lines below, should 
= " au milieu de," but seems here to mean " along." 

79 HIS DEATH 51 

[that way]. Adjoining the other chambers there was one 
By which the way to the cloister was more private. But at 
that time it was shut with a great bolt. Sorely dismayed 
were the hooded folk (i.e. the monks) When they saw their 
way thus barred on every side. To the door of that chamber 
went one of the monks, Took the bolt in his two hands : 
then did God do a mighty work : When he would have 
wrenched the bolt out, at that moment it fell, As though it 
had been fastened with a little glue. 13 The monk opened 
the door, then gave them passage through. 

[78] So, will he or nill he, they led him to the Minster, 
Even as though he willingly waited for his death. Some of 
them pulled him and the others pushed him, So that at a 
great pace they entered the cloister. Yet twice in that cloister 
did they make a stay. For as soon as the Saint could 
touch the ground And was able on the ground to set his 
two feet, He pushed them all from him, [and] began to 
accuse [them] : " What mean you with me," said he, " to 
drag and pull ? Let me be ! " Then took they him, and 
carried him, [and placed him] in the Minster. 

[79] (13) (Saga) Now when the vespers of the brethren 
wear on, they having their service always first, the learned 
men go to the Archbishop, whereas he sitteth in the same 
place still, and with them his familiar friends, all praying 
together that he save himself into the monastery. But the 

As autres chaumbres out une chambre [78] Dune 1'en unt al mustier, ou voille ou 

ajustie, nun, mene, 

Par ou la veie esteit al cloistre plus privee ; Ensement cum la mort atendist de sun gr6 ; 

Mes a eel ore esteit a un grand loc fermee. Li un i unt sachie et li autre bute, 

Mult en fu esba'ie la gent chaperunee, Tant qu'il sunt le grant pas dedenz le cloistre 

Quand virent si lur veie totes parz estopee. entre. 

A 1'us de la chambre est un des moines venuz ; Mais il se sunt dous feiz enz el cloistre areste. 

Le loc prist a dous mains ; la ad Deus feit Car si tost cum li sainz pout la terre atuchier, 

vertuz ; Et il pout a la terre ses dous piez afichier, 

Quant le loc volt estuerdre, el puinz li est Tuz les enpainst de sei, commenga a pleidier : 

chaiiz, " Que me volez," fet-il, " de trere et de sachier? 

Cum se il fust aers a un petit de gluz.W Leissiez mei !" Dune 1'unt pris et porti el 

L'us a overz li moines, puis les ad esmeiiz. mustier. 11. 5351-75- 

13 " Cum se il fust aers a un petit de gluz," Grim, " ac si glutino cohaesisset," 
Anon. I., " ac si ostio minime adhaesisset." 


blessed Archbishop abhorreth all flight, and sitteth still as 

So, when this availeth naught, they tell him that the 
brethren have now finished their vespers, and that it be- 
hoveth themselves to go to church, and to do their duty 
to God on so great a high day. For this reason he at last 
standeth up and ordereth the cross to be borne before him. 
Now against custom the mode of procession was changed, 
inasmuch as the Archbishop, who had always been wont to 
go first, now goeth last. Others, from fear natural to man, 
walked with haste whilst he walked quietly, and slower 
than was his wont. But when they wanted to quicken 
more the pace, in order that he might save himself into the 
church, he spoke : " Why behave ye so, or what fear ye ? " 
They say that armed men have entered the cloister already. 
He answereth, " Why should that change your reverence ? 
They may do naught more than God permitteth." 

[80] (i.) (Stanley, pp. 83-5) Partly forced, partly per- 
suaded by the argument, partly feeling that his doom called 
him thither, he rose and moved, but seeing that his cross-staff 
was not, as usual, borne before him, he stopped and called for 
it. He remembered, perhaps, the memorable day at the 
Council of Northampton, when he had himself borne the 
cross through the royal Hall to the dismay and fury of his 
opponents. His ordinary cross-bearer, Alexander Llewellyn, 
had, as we have seen, left him for France two days before, 
and the cross-staff was, therefore, borne by one of his clerks, 
Henry of Auxerre. 

They first attempted to pass along the usual passage to 
the cathedral, through the orchard, to the western front of 
the church. But both court and orchard being by this time 
thronged with armed men, they turned through a room 
which conducted to a private door that was rarely used, and 
which led from the palace to the cloisters of the monastery. 
One of the monks ran before to force it, for the key was 

82 HIS DEATH 53 

lost. Suddenly the door flew open as if of itself, and in the 
confusion of the moment, when none had leisure or inclina- 
tion to ask how so opportune a deliverance occurred, it was 
natural for the story to arise which is related, with one 
exception, in all the narratives of the period that the bolt 
came off as though it had merely been fastened on by glue, 
and left their passage free. 

[81] This one exception is the account by Benedict, then 
a monk of the monastery, and afterwards Abbot of Peter- 
borough, and his version, compared with that of all the 
other historians, is an instructive commentary on a thousand 
fables of a similar kind. Two cellarmen, he says, of the 
monastery, Richard and William, whose lodgings were in 
that part of the building, hearing the tumult and clash of 
arms, flew to the cloister, drew back the bolt from the other 
side, and opened the door to the party from the palace. 
Benedict knew nothing of the seeming miracle, as his 
brethren were ignorant of the timely interference of the 

[82] But both miracle and explanation would at the 
moment be alike disregarded. Every monk in that terrified 
band had but a single thought to reach the church with 
their master in safety. The whole march was a struggle 
between the obstinate attempt of the Primate to preserve 
his dignity, and the frantic eagerness of his attendants to 
gain the sanctuary. As they urged him forward, he 
coloured and paused, and repeatedly asked them what 
they feared. The instant they had passed through the door 
which led to the cloister, the subordinates flew to bar it 
behind them, which he as peremptorily forbade. For a few 
steps he walked firmly on, with the cross-bearer and the 
monks before him ; halting once, and looking over his right 

14 This seems to be based upon Benedict's "quasi fugam erubescens gradum 
fixit," "stopped, as though ashamed of flight." But no literal "change of 
colour " is implied in the Latin. 


shoulder, either to see whether the gate was locked, or else 
if his enemies were pursuing. 

[83] Then the same ecclesiastic who had hastened for- 
ward to break open the door, called out, " Seize him and 
carry him." Vehemently he resisted, but in vain. Some 
pulled him from before, others pushed from behind ; half 
carried, half drawn, he was borne along the northern and 
eastern cloister, crying out, " Let me go, do not drag me." 
Thrice they were delayed, even in that short passage, for 
thrice he broke loose from them twice in the cloister itself, 
and once in the chapter-house, which opened out of its 
eastern side. At last they reached the door of the lower 
north transept of the cathedral, and here was presented a 
new scene. 

[84] (ii.) Tennyson represents the Archbishop as accom- 
panied by none but Grim and John of Salisbury, and Grim 
as bearing the cross. 

2. TJie carrying of the Cross 

[85] Grim, William, Anon. I., and Gamier, make no 
mention of the carrying of the cross, no doubt because they 
assumed it as a matter of course. Benedict and Fitzstephen 
mention it to shew that the Archbishop, in that crisis, did 
everything that was seemly, and especially this seemly and 
typical act. It is the latest writer alone, Herbert, who gives 
us the impression that the Archbishop had gone a little way 
through the cloister before he noticed the absence of the 
cross. This emphasizes the matter. But had it been so, it 
would surely have been stated by earlier writers. 

[86] There was no such " attempt " as Stanley mentions 
to pass along the usual passage. The monks knew that 
to be hopeless. They simply "looked round," or "cast 
about" (circumspexerunt), as Anon. I. says, for some other 


3. The bolt that came off " as though it had been 
fastened by glue " 

[87] As regards the explanation of the wonderful open- 
ing of the bolted door that led from the Palace into the 
cloister, Stanley has been misled by confusing two doors 
mentioned by Benedict. Both of these might be called 
" cloister doors." But the first is, as described by Benedict 
above, " the door that led to the church through the cloister" 
i.e. a door in the Palace. The second, which will be men- 
tioned in the next chapter, is " the door of the cloister that 
opens from the cloister into the church" 

It is this latter that is unbarred by the two cellarers. 
As to the former, Benedict says briefly that the monks led 
the Archbishop through it, " breaking the bolt of the door 
(seram ostii confringentes)." Undoubtedly Benedict sees no 
miracle in the opening of the door now in question ; but he 
regards it as opened, not by the two cellarers, but by the 
monk who broke the bolt. 

4. Another door that " opened as if spontaneously " 

[88] When the Archbishop, surrounded by a hostile 
crowd, was leaving the royal castle at Northampton, a 
similar miracle was thought to have occurred by some 
writers, but not by all. 

(a) William says that the Archbishop (Mat. i. 40) " burst 
out (erupit)," while the porter was beating some one and 
neglecting his duty. John of Salisbury (alluding to Luke 
iv. 30, John viii. 59) says, in a brief summary, "but he, 
passing through the midst of them, went his way." Grim 
omits it, and says (Mat. ii. 399) that a command was given 
from the King that the Archbishop should be allowed to 
leave. Fitzstephen has (Mat. iii. 68) "the door, which had 


been carefully barred (" obseratum," al. " watched (obser- 
vatum) " ) all that day, was opened for him, as if spontane- 
ously." Herbert who writes as a companion of the 
Archbishop, and says that he " alone followed him outside 
the inner buildings until we entered the hall " makes no 
mention of any difficulty as to the door. Anon. I. says 
(Mat. iv. 52) that, when the Archbishop (on horseback) had 
reached the castle gate, he was terrified at finding it closed, 
but Peter of Mortorium, one of his servants, got hold of a 
bundle of keys, and at once chose the right key, " which 
seemed to some as it were a miracle," and the gate was 
opened quickly. Gamier says the same thing, only calls 
the servant a squire, named Trunchez. The Saga (i. 223) 
curiously minimizes the miracle by saying " And soon this 
hindrance becometh lighter through the will of God, for they 
see many keys somewhere on the wall, of which they bore 
to the lock one after the other until the very one was found 
which fitted the gate." 

What are we to infer as to the Northampton gate ? 
Unquestionably this, that some servant of the Archbishop's 
did get hold of the porter's keys so as to open the gate in 
the manner described, and that the opening of the gate in 
the nick of time was regarded variously as (i) fortunate but 
not worthy of mention in history, (2) a quasi-miracle, (3) 
a miracle. 

(b} So, too, as regards this cloister-door, the bolt, bar, or 
lock of a door, long disused and closed, came off at once in 
the hands of some monk, say Robert of Merton, the chap- 
lain. To him it seemed little short of a miracle, just as to 
Peter (or Trunchez) at Northampton. As Peter, the opener 
of the door, seems to have inspired Anon. I. then, so the 
unknown monk that opened this door (if he is not himself 
Anon. I.) may have inspired Anon. I. now, and also Gamier, 
and Grim. Benedict and William simply say that the bolt 
(or door) was broken. Herbert omits the whole of this 

89 HIS DEATH 57 

feature, perhaps as distracting the reader from the scene of 
the Christ-like progress " with the cross to the cross " : and 
so does the Saga. 

5. The carrying of the Archbishop 

[89] The statement of Grim and Anon. I. that the 
Archbishop was " carried " by the monks cannot be literally 
reconciled with that of Fitzstephen, that he "drove them 
all before him as a shepherd drives sheep." But we may 
suppose that, even when carried by force, he insisted on 
being carried in the rear. Yet some of his attendants 
appear (so it is stated below) to have been left outside the 
Cathedral door. How could this be, if he was carried 
last? The explanation may be that, when the proces- 
sion, or crowd, reached the Cathedral, the foremost waited, 
to allow the Archbishop to enter first Or others may 
have fled into the cloister afterwards, chased by the 
armed knights. The worst inaccuracy is that of Anon. IV., 
which represents the Archbishop as seeing the armed men 
behind him in the cloister, even before he had entered the 



I. The different accounts 

[90] (i) (Grim) When the monks had got inside the 
doors of the church, the four knights already mentioned 
followed at the top of their speed behind their backs. 
Among them came a sub-deacon, Hugo by name, as bent 
on mischief as the knights, known for his villainy by the 
appropriate appellation of Mauclerk (bad clerk), one that 
reverenced neither God nor saints [or, holy things], as he 
shewed in his subsequent action. But as soon as the holy 
Archbishop entered the Minster, the monks, breaking off the 
vespers which they had begun to offer to God, come hastily 
to meet him, glorifying God because they saw living and 
unharmed their father [in God] who had been reported dead. 

[91] (2) (Fitzstephen) They entered the church itself. 1 

[90] (i) (Grim) Postquam autem intra fores ecclesiae monachi se receperant, 
jam dicti milites quattuor cursu rapidissimo post terga secuti sunt. Affuit inter 
illos subdiaconus quidam, eadem qua milites armatus malitia, Hugo Malus- 
clericus merito suae nequitiae cognominatus, qui nee Deo nee sanctis reverentiam 
exhiberet ; quod sequens factum probavit. Intranti vero monasterium sancto 
archiepiscopo, omissis vesperis quas Deo libare inceperant, occurrunt monachi, 
glorificantes Deum quod patrem suum, quem exstinctum audierant, vivum 
cernerent et incolumem. 

[91] (2) (Fitzstephen) Intratum est in ecclesiam ipsam. 1 Monachi ecclesiae, 

1 All the words from "Monachi" onwards are omitted in one MS. called 
J. (see 

93 HIS DEATH 59 

The monks of the church, trembling and astounded at so 
strange and vast a tumult, left their vespers without singing 
them through, and came out of the choir to meet the Arch- 
bishop as soon as he entered the church, rejoicing and 
thanking God that they saw and welcomed him alive after 
he had been reported to them as slain with the sword. 

(3) (John) Omits this. 

[92] (4) (William) As the brethren were duly at vespers, 
there had run [up the choir], through the midst of them, 
two servant lads, before the rest, announcing (rather by 
gestures of terror than in articulate speech) that the enemy 
was upon them. Some of the brethren persisted still in 
their prayers, some made for passages of outlet, some wished 
to help [the Archbishop] ; but one of the brethren went out, 
saying, " Hither, father, hither : enter and abide with us, 
that, if need be, we may at one stroke suffer together and 
be glorified together. Sorely have we been distracted by 
your absence : now let us be consoled by your presence." 2 

[93] (5) (Benedict) And when they had come near to 
the cloister door [opening into the church 3 ] it being im- 

pro tali et tanto tumultu tarn pavidi quam attoniti, relictis et non percantatis 
vesperis, Domino archiepiscopo in ecclesiam intrante, a choro exeunt ei obviam, 
gaudentes et Deo gratiam habentes quod eum vivum cernunt et recipiunt, quern 
jam detruncatum audierant. 

(3) (John) Omits this. 

[92] (4) (William) Praecurrerant per medium fratrum vespertinae synaxeos 
debita prosequentium pueri duo, plus terrore quam voce hostilem invasionem 
nuntiantes. Quibusdam ergo ex fratribus ad orationem adhuc persistentibus, 
quibusdam diverticula petentibus, quibusdam subvenire volentibus, exivit quidam 
ex fratribus dicens, " Ingredere, pater, ingredere, manens nobiscum, ut, si 
necesse est, una compatiamur et conglorificemur. Exanimatos absentia tua, 
praesentia consoletur. 2 

[93] (5) (Benedict) Cumque ad ostium claustri 3 appropinquassent, et neque 

2 This section, with its full details about the monks at vespers, confirms the 
view that William was in the Cathedral with them. 

3 "Ostium claustri," i.e. the door leading (a) from the cloister into the 
Cathedral. This must be distinguished from the door mentioned in the last 
chapter by Benedict ("ostii quod ad ecclesiam per claustrum ducebat"), i.e. the 


possible for them either to break it down or to open it with 
a key (for they had none at hand) 4 lo, two cellarers of the 
Canterbury church, Richard and William by name (who, 
hearing the uproar and the clatter of arms, began to hasten 
thither by the way of the cloister 5 ), tore away the bolt and 
threw open the above-mentioned door for the Archbishop as 
he came [up]. 6 

[94] (6) (Herbert) When he entered the church, all that 
belonged to him were presently scattered in fear. They 
fled on this side, and they fled on that side, and through 
the crypts of the church, and under the altars, they " hid 
themselves from him." 7 

[95] (7) (Anon. I.) So when the man of God had 
stepped into the church, the monks looked back and saw 
that the knights were by this time stepping into the cloister. 

illud confringere possent, neque clavem prae manibus haberent, 4 ecce cellerarii 
duo Cantuariensis ecclesiae, Ricardus et Willelmus qui, audito tumultu et 
collisione armorum, per viam claustri 5 illo properabant ostium idem, avulsa 
sera, venienti archiepiscopo patefecerunt. 6 

[94] (6) (Herbert) Cum autem intrasset ecclesiam, quotquot sui prae timore 
mox dispersi sunt : fugerunt -hi, fugerunt et illi, et per cryptas ecclesiae et sub 
altaribus absconderunt se ab eo. 7 

[95] (7) (Anon. I.) Ingresso igitur viro Dei in ecclesiam, respicientes monachi 
viderunt milites jam ingredi claustrum : 

door leading (b) from the Palace, through the cloister, toward the Cathedral. 
Stanley (87 and 88) has confused the two. Taking Benedict's statement about 
(a), he bases on it an attempt to explain the quasi-miraculous opening of (b). 

4 Lit. "and could neither break it down nor had a key at hand," a curious 
order of words. 

6 "By way of the cloister" may grammatically be taken with (i) "clatter of 
arms," or (2) "hastening." But the sense requires the latter. The cellarers ran 
round the cloister, by the way leading past their chambers, and thus got to the 
Cathedral ahead of the Archbishop's procession. The Archbishop went by two 
sides of the square, the cellarers by the other two. 

6 After this, they appear to have rushed into the choir, announcing the 
" invasio," as William says above. 

7 We should have expected "hid themselves from the enemy" ; but Herbert 
apparently discerns here a fulfilment of Isaiah liii. 3 " And we hid as it were our 
faces from him." In the context, Herbert, who places the flight of Becket's 
companions somewhat earlier than the others do, comments here on this provi- 
dential flight as securing the glory of martyrdom for the Archbishop alone. 

97 HIS DEATH 61 

(8) (Anon. II.) Omits this. 

(9) (Anon. IV.) Omits this. 

(10) (Anon. V.) But they hurried him forcibly away 
and carried him to the Minster. 

(n) (Anon. X.) When he entered the Minster, the 
vespers were broken off, and some of the monks came to 
meet him, astounded by the clamour of those who (?) ran 8 
through [the church]. 

(12) (Gamier) Omits this. 

[96] (13) (The Saga} Now when he cometh into the 
church, even as the vespers had come to an end, they came 
running to meet him, weeping from joy, and thanking God 
that they saw him alive ; for they thought he was already 
reft of life by then. 

[97] (i.) (Stanley, p. 85) The vespers had already 
begun, and the monks were singing the service in the choir, 
when two boys 9 rushed up the nave, announcing, more by 
their terrified gestures than by their words, that the soldiers 
were bursting into the palace and monastery. Instantly the 
service was thrown into the utmost confusion ; part remained 
at prayer part fled into the numerous hiding-places the 
vast fabric affords ; and part went down the steps of the 
choir into the transept to meet the little band at the door. 
" Come in, come in ! " exclaimed one of them, " come in, 
and let us die together." 

(8) (Anon. II.) Omits this. 

(9) (Anon. IV.) Omits this. 

(10) (Anon. V.) At illi vi eum rapientes monasterio intulerunt. 

(11) (Anon. X.) Intranti monasterium, omissis vesperis, quidam monachorum 
occurrunt, clamore percurrentium 8 attoniti. 

8 "Ran through." The Editor suggests "praecurrentium," "those who ran 
up first," either (a) to announce the Archbishop's approach, or (b) to hide from 
the knights. William (92), who mentions two " lads" as "running before the 
rest (praecurrentes)," rather implies that they did not shout ("plus terrore quam 
voce "). 

9 "Boys (92, pueri)." Better, "lads," or "servants." 


(ii.) (Tennyson) 

[Service stops. MONKS come down from the stairs that lead to 
the choir. 

MONKS. Here is the great Archbishop ! He lives ! he lives ! 
Die with him, and be glorified together. 

2. The Saga's regard for the Fitness of Things 

[98] The solitary assertion of the Saga that " the vespers 
had come to an end," when the monks flocked to meet the 
Archbishop, is more seemly, but less probable, than the 
versions that represent the monks as " breaking off vespers." 
It is characteristic of the Icelandic poet that he should take 
this decorous view. Above (62), he frees the Archbishop 
from the blame of going to vespers late, by explaining 
(alone of all our writers) that there were two services, and 
that he was going to the second. 

3. Different points of view 

[99] There is no error in either of the two modern 
writers ; and the differences between the original authorities 
can be easily explained. 

Benedict's point of view is in the front of the procession, 
which passes along the northern and eastern sides of the 
cloisters. Before they reach the door ' opening from the 
cloister into the Cathedral, two cellarers, whom he knows 
and mentions by name, having come round the cloisters 
by the other two sides (the western and southern), and 
having reached the door first, manage to wrench out the 
bolt, and throw the door open for them. William, on the 
other hand, sees things from the interior of the Cathedral, 
where he was probably engaged at vespers. Two " lads," 
he says, probably Benedict's two " cellarers," who had first 
opened the door for the Archbishop had run into the choir 
during vespers, and had announced the approach of the 

99 HIS DEATH 63 

enemy. Many of the monks now rush towards the entrance. 
" A brother," says William, goes out and welcomes the 
Archbishop in the name of all the monks. The other 
narrators speak of no single " brother " but of " the monks " 
as a body. Anon. I. has his point of view in the rear of 
the Archbishop's procession. The Archbishop enters first. 
Anon. I., still outside, looks back, and sees the knights in 
pursuit, just entering the cloister as the Archbishop enters 
the Cathedral. 


I. The different accounts 

[100] (i) (Grim) They also hasten to keep off the foe from 
the slaughter of their Shepherd by barring the folding-doors 
of the church. But the admirable Champion [of God] turned 
to them -and commanded the doors to be opened, saying, " It 
is not seemly to make into a tower the house of prayer, the 
church of Christ, which, even though it be not closed, suffices 
its children for a stronghold ; and by suffering, rather than by 
fighting, shall we triumph over the foe ; for indeed we have 
come to suffer [violence], not to fight against it" 

[101] (2) (Fitzstephen) l And whereas some were 
weeping for joy or fear, and some advising this, others that 
(like Peter saying to our Lord, " That be far from thee " 2 ), he 
himself, " not timorous to die " 3 for the liberty and interests of 
the Church of God, bade them depart and stand back from 

[100] (i) (Grim) Valvas etiam ecclesiae repagulando hostes a nece pastoris 
arcere festinant. Ad quos conversus athleta mirabilis imperat ecclesiae januas 
aperiri, " Non decet," inquiens, "orationis domum, ecclesiam Christi, turrem 
facere, quae, etsi non claudatur, suis sufficit ad munimen ; et nos patiendo potius 
quam pugnando triumphabimus hostem, qui et pad venimus, non repugnare." 

[101] (2) (Fitzstephen) l Et cum alii prae gaudio vel timore flerent, alii hoc, 
alii illud suaderent (ut Petrus Domino dicens " Propitius esto tibi" 2 ), ille, pro 
ecclesiae Dei libertate et causa "non timidus mori," 3 jussit eos abire et a se 

1 The MS. (called J) (150) that omitted part of the last section, omits " Et 
cum . . . videbat." 2 Matthew xvi. 22. 

3 From Horace, Odes, iii. 19. 2 "pro patria non timidus mori " 

103 HIS DEATH 65 

him, that they might by no means hinder his Passion, which 
he had predicted as destined to come, and now saw on the 
point of coming. 

[102] On his way to the altar up above, 4 where he was 
wont to hear " familiar mass " and " hours," he had already 
ascended four 5 steps, when lo, at the cloister door, by which we 
had come [out of the Palace], 6 there came up first Reginald 
Fitzurse, in hauberk, with sword unsheathed, exclaiming, 
" Now ! This way ! King's men ! " A few moments after- 
wards he was joined by his three companions above mentioned, 
in hauberks too, head and body in full armour, all but the 
eyes, and with naked swords [in their hands]. 

[103] There were a great many besides, without hauberks, 
but armed, from their own retinue and friends, and some 
from the city of Canterbury, whom they had compelled to 
come along with them. 7 . . . On the sight, I say, of these 
men in arms, the monks wished 8 to close and bar the door 

recedere : utique ne impedirent passionem ejus, quam futurum (sic) praedixerat et 
imminere videbat. 

[102] Iturus ad aram 4 superius, ubi missas familiares et horas solebat audire, 
jam quatuor 5 gradus ascenderat, cum ecce ad ostium claustri, 6 quo veneramus, 
primus adest Raginaldus (sic) Ursonis loricatus, ense evaginato, et vociferans, 
" Nunc hue ad me, homines regis !" Nee multo post adduntur ei tres praedicti 
socii ejus, similiter loricis contecti corpora et capita, praeterquam oculos solos, 
et ensibus nudatis. 

[103] Plurimi etiam alii, sine loricis, armati, de sequela et sociis suis, et 
aliqui de urbe Cantuariae, quos coactos secum illi venire compulerant. 7 . . . 
Visis, inquam, illis armatis, voluerunt monachi 8 ostium ecclesiae obfirmare : sed 

4 Does Fitzwilliam distinguish this "ara" from the "high altar (altare majus)"? 

5 Herbert says " seven or eight," see 163. 

6 It is important to distinguish this (i) "cloister-door," leading out of the 
Palace, from (2) the "cloister door" leading into the Cathedral. If the knights 
had reached (2), there would have been no time for the monks to attempt to bar 
(2). But the knights were seen emerging from (i), just before the monks began 
to bar (2). See 87. 

7 Here the writer digresses to say that Dover, Hastings, and other ports, had 
been guarded to prevent the Archbishop's escape. 

8 "Voluerunt monachi" om. by the MS. called J. This would make 
"obfirmare" historical infinitive (or perf. used for " obfirmavere "). 

VOL. i $ 


of the church. But the good man, having his trust fixed 
in the Lord, and not being carried away by the sudden panic 
at the onrush of these powers of the wicked, turned back and 
came down from the steps, forbidding the closing of the 
church door, and saying, " Far be it from us to make a castle 
out of the church of God. 9 Let all come into the church 
of God that wish to come in. God's will be done." 

(3) (John) Omits this. 

[104] (4) (William) He replied, "Go, complete divine 
service as is due." And standing back, near the door, he 
said, " As long as you hold the entrance, I will not enter in." 
On their retiring, he stepped inside the Minster, but [again] 
stood back on the threshold, and driving back the common 
folk, who crowded round him as though to see some spectacle, 
" What is it," he asked, " that these folk fear ? " Answer was 
made, " The armed men in the cloister." " I am going forth," 
he said, " to meet them." But when the brethren hindered 
his going forth, he stood fronting them, 10 round about the 

bonus homo, fiduciam habens in Domino, et non expavescens repentino terrore 
irruentes potentias impiorum, e gradibus descendit regressus, prohibens ne ostium 
ecclesiae clauderetur, et dkens " Absit ut de ecclesia Dei castellum faciamus ; 9 
permittite intrare omnes ecclesiam Dei intrare volentes : fiat voluntas Dei." 

(3) (John) Omits this. 

[104] (4) (William) Respondit, " Ite, pensum Divinae servitutis explentes." 
Et subsistens ad ostium inquit " Quamdiu tenebitis introitum, non introibo." 
Cedentibus illis introgressus monasterium substitit in limine, repellensque populares 
quasi ad spectaculum circa se constipates, "Quidnam," inquit, "metuit gens 
ista?" Responsum est, "Armatos in claustro." "Ad ipsos," ait, "exeo." 
Prohibentibus autem fratribus eum exire, coepit circa limen obversari ; 10 et cum 

9 [103#] "Absit . . . faciamus" om. by the MS. called J. The saying is 
assigned to the Archbishop, in some form, by Gamier, Grim, Anon. I., and 
Herbert. William (129) has an echo of them in some remarks of his own. If 
they were here originally, there is no reason why a scribe should omit them. But 
there is good reason why a later edition, or a scribe of the first edition, should 
insert them. Probably therefore these words were not in the first edition (15#). 

10 " Coepit obversari." The meaning seems to be that the monks stood with 
their backs to the door, and the Archbishop, fronting them, tried to pass through 

8 105 HIS DEATH 67 

threshold ; and, though he was advised to go further on and 
betake himself to the Holy of Holies \i.e. the altar], so that 
reverence for the place might secure deference for his person, 
he would not listen. Meanwhile, as the clerks were making 
a great confusion, and some of the brethren were setting up 
an iron bar against [the door], " Away," cried he, " faint of 
heart ! Let these blind wretches work their mad will ! On 
your duty of obedience we bid you not to close fast the door." 
[105] (5) (Benedict) \^ 1 [Meanwhile, as the clerks were 
making a great confusion, and some of the brethren were setting 
up an iron bar against {the door], he cried, " Away, faint of 
heart ! Let these blind wretches work their mad will. On 
your duty of obedience, I bid you not to close the doorJ] For it 
is not seemly that a church shotild be turned into a castle? ] 
Some of the monks, therefore, 13 breaking off vespers, run 
towards him, and, bringing their Shepherd inside in spite of 
his resistance, they hasten to shut the folding-doors of the 
church so as to shut out the enemy. 

procedere moneretur, et ad sancta sanctorum se conferre, ut ei deferretur ex 
reverentia loci, non acquievit. Tumultuantibus interea clericis, quibusdamque 
fratribus vectem ferreum cbducentibus, " Abite," inquit, " pusillanimes, sinite 
miseros et caecos delirare. Praecipimus in virtute obedientiaene ostium accludatis. " 
[105] (5) (Benedict) 11 [Tumultuantibus interea clericis, quibusdamque 
fratribus vectem ferreum obducentibus, inquit, " Abite, pusillanimes, sinite miseros 
et caecos delirare : praecipimus in virtute obedientiae ne ostium claudatis ;] non 
enim decet ecclesiam incastellari." 12 ] Omissis igitur 13 vesperis accurrunt quidam 
monachorum, pastoremque suum, licet renitentem, introducentes, clausis ecclesiae 
valvis hostes festinant excludere. 

11 The Editor (Mat. ii. n) says that the passage, "Tumultuantibus ... 
claudatis," here ascribed in the Quadrilogus to Benedict, "is really by William 
of Canterbury." If so, the position of " inquit " here, a violation of Latin usage, 
is an interesting instance of a scribe erroneously altering the original. Probably 
(see 105 below) the rest of the sentence is interpolated from Herbert. 

12 Al. "incastellare." Comp. Herbert below, "decere minime incastellari 

13 [105#] " Therefore " is inexplicable, if the context is correct. How could 
Benedict write, in effect, " The Archbishop said, ' Go away.' Some of the monks 
therefore run towards him " ? Probably the whole of the italicized passage is an 
interpolation (slightly varied) from William and Herbert. The genuine Benedict 


[106] But the holy Father stepped back, and began 
speedily to rebuke them, saying, " Suffer my people to enter." 
And he went to meet them, and, thrusting away now this 
one now that one from the folding -doors, he with his 
own most sacred hands began to drag his people into the 
church for they had been left outside the doors to the jaws 
of the wolves saying, " Come inside, come inside, with all 
speed " : [which came to pass] that he might be able to say 
with the Lord, " Those whom thou hast given me, I have 
not lost one of them." u 

[107] But at last, torn violently from the spot by the 
urgency of his sons, he left the doors thrown open to the 
enemy (who were now near at hand), lest, by impeding their 
way, he should impede his martyrdom, wherewith he had 
known and declared aforetime that he was destined to be 
blessed. For while still in the parts beyond the seas, he 
had foretold and that in clear terms to two Abbots, those 
of Pontigny and Val-luisant, as we wrote above, 15 that he 
must suffer martyrdom and be slain in a church. . . . 

[106] Regressus autem pater sanctus quantocius increpabat eos, dicens, 
" Dimittite meos intrare." Et occurrens ostium aperuit, et hos et illos a valvis 
removens, suos, qui de foris luporum morsibus relicti fuerant, sacratissimis manibus 
suis trahebat in ecclesiam, dicens, " Introite, introite citius" : ut dicere posset cum 
Domino, "Quos dedisti mihi, non perdidi ex eis quenquam." 14 

[107] Tandem vero, filiorum suorum instantia inde violenter abstractus, 
hostibus jam prope positis ostia patefacta reliquit, ne impedito illorum itinere 
ejus impediretur martyrium, quo se scierat et praedixerat futurum esse beatum. 
In finibus enim transmarinis adhuc positus, duobus abbatibus, Pontiniaci scilicet 
et Vallis-lucentis, sicut praescripsimus, 15 passurum se esse martyrium et in 
ecclesia occidendum manifeste praedixerat. . . . 

continues from the last section thus : " . . . they opened the door for the Arch- 
bishop as he came up. Some of the monks, therefore, run towards him." 

14 John xviii. 9. In what precedes, " citius " may mean " faster " (so Stanley, 
" faster, faster "). But the comparative is so seldom thus used in this kind of 
Latin (without quam) that I prefer " with all speed." 

15 [1070] " As we wrote above." No extant words of Benedict describe this 
vision. Two explanations of the phrase are open : ( I ) Benedict wrote a life of 
Becket, and it is lost ; (2) the phrase comes from the compiler of the Quadrilogus, 
who interpolates it in order to refer the reader to the previous mention of this 

108 HIS DEATH 69 

[108] (6) (Herbert) However, a certain one 16 of them 
that were with him, when the Archbishop had entered the 
church, presently closed the church doors and barred them. 
But those murderous knights with their cohort, with arms, 
and swords, and staves, following the Archbishop hard at his 
heels, and by this time coming up to the church doors, with 
terrible noise and loud shouts thundered to some one to open 
the doors to them with all speed. Then, as there was some 
delay about it, they attempted to batter the doors down with 
certain iron implements they had prepared for that purpose, 
and to force a passage in that way. Presently the din and 
shouting near the folding-doors of the church were overheard 
by the future Sacrifice of Christ, [himself] a Christ 17 of the 
Lord and he gave orders that they should be immediately 

[108] (6) (Herbert) Quidam 1G tamen de suis, cum ecclesiam intrasset ipse, 
ecclesiae fores clausit mox et seravit. Illi vero carnifices milites cum cohorte, 
cum armis, et gladiis, et fustibus, archipraesulem pedatim sequentes, et jam ad 
ecclesiae fores venientes, terribiliter et clamose intonabant ut cito sibi aperiren- 
tur fores. Quod quia aliquantisper dilatum, quibusdam praeparatis iferreis 
machinis fores dejicere et irruere sic intentabant. Quorum fragorem et 
clamorem ad ecclesiae valvas mox futura Christi victima christus lr Domini 

prediction in his compilation (Mat. iv. 353). The latter is almost certainly to be 
adopted, (a) The two Abbots are mentioned by the Quadrilogus above, in an 
extract from Herbert, and the vision is given at great length. Moreover, (b} the 
Quadrilogus does not shrink from even altering the text for the purpose of 
harmonizing it (20#), so that we may reasonably suppose it would not scruple at 
such a comparatively slight matter as this insertion, (c) There is strong evidence 
to shew that Benedict was known by his contemporaries Anon. I., Grim, and 
Elias of Evesham (i.e. the Early Quadrilogus) to have written only about the 
Passion and the Miracles, and Elias distinctly asserts this (Mat. ii. 448, iv. 2, 425). 

16 [108#] "A certain one." These words seem inserted by Herbert 
because he has previously said that, on the Archbishop's entrance, all that were 
with him deserted him. Now he has to admit that some one remained, and 
barred the door. But he makes this the act of one man alone. That is im- 
probable, and is contradicted by the evidence. Herbert cannot be trusted, when 
biassed by the desire to find analogies between the Martyr and the Saviour. 
Note his repetition of the " cohort " in the next sentence, because Christ was 
arrested by a "cohort." 

17 "Christ of the Lord," i.e. as being "Anointed of the Lord," anointed 


opened, adding that it was by no means seemly that a 
church should be turned into a castle. 18 

[109] (7) (Anon. I.) They (the monks) closed against 
them (the knights) the doors of the church. But seeing that 
the doors were being closed, the man of God said to them, 
" By your holy obedience I order that they be opened 
without delay. For we ought not to make a castle of the 
house of God." A second time did the monks [now] seize 
the man of God and began to escort him by the steps into 
the choir. " Let me be," he said to them, " and go back. 
You have naught to do here. Suffer God, according to His 
will, to arrange concerning His own business." 

[110] (8) (Anon. II.) They barred the folding-doors 
behind him. But he presently had them opened, saying, 
" Far be it that we should make the church of God a castle." 

(9) (Anon. IV.) Omits this. 

(10) (Anon. V.) But he himself, [going up] by some 
steps, betook himself to the altar of St. Benedict, 19 which was 
at the entrance of the church. 

exaudiens, praecepit ut confestim aperirentur, addens decere minime incastellari 
ecclesiam. 18 

[109] (7) (Anon. I.) Clauserunt contra eos januas ecclesiae. Videns autem 
vir Dei claudi januas, dixit, " Per sanctam obedientiam praecipio ut sine mora 
aperiantur. Non enim debemus facere castellum de domo Dei." Iterum 
arripuerunt monachi virum Dei, et coeperunt eum per gradus in chorum deducere. 
Quibus ipse ait, " Dimittite me, et recedite ; nihil hie habetis facere ; permittite 
Deum secundum voluntatem suam disponere de suo negotio." 

[110] (8) (Anon. II.) Post quem cum valvas obserassent, mox eas aperiri 
fecit, dicens, "Absit ut ecclesiam Dei castellum faciamus." 

(9) (Anon. IV. ) Omits this. 

(10) (Anon. V.) Ipse vero ad altare beati Benedicti, 19 quod erat in introitu 
ecclesiae, per gradus quosdam se contulit. 

18 [108^] No other writer says that the knights found the church door closed 
and attempted to force it open. Fitzstephen (see 128 below) says that the 
knights, " contrary to their expectation," found the door open. Herbert is 
perhaps confusing the entry into the Cathedral with the entry into the palace. 

19 The consent of the authorities is that he went up the steps leading to the 
choir on the way to the High Altar. See however 102. 

112 HIS DEATH 71 

(n) (Anon. X.) , and they hasten to keep off the foe 
from the slaughter of their Shepherd by barring the folding- 
doors of the church. But the holy Father turned back 
and thrust away, now this one, now that one, from the 
folding-doors ; lest, by impeding the way of the enemy, his 
martyrdom should be impeded. 20 

[Ill] (12) (Gamier) When the monks had thus carried 
him to the Minster, Then had the knights entered inside 
the cloister, Sword in hand, and armed with hauberks, 
And one, Hugh Malclerk (so was he named) ; Clerk he was 
of Robert de Broc, very full of iniquity. These four came 
in front, to begin the evil, But from afar there followed four 
other knights : This Hugh went with them [the former four] 
and entered the Minster. They [the latter four] entered not, 
for that son of the Adversary Had met them in the cloister (?) 
to turn them back. 21 

[112] Some of the monks closed the doors against them ; 
" Open," said St. Thomas ; and himself went unclosing 
them. " By [your] holy obedience," said he, " I command 
you ; Let them do their will, these who have come forward. 22 
As long as ye close these doors, I will not go a step forward. 

(n) (Anon. X.) , et valvas ecclesiae repagulando hostes a nece sui pastoris 
arcere festinant. Revertens autem pater sanctus hos et illos a valvis removet, 
ne, impedito itinere hostium, ejus impediretur martyrium. 20 
[Ill] Quand 1'orent el mustier li moine issi Cil n'i entrerent pas, car li fil 1'aversier 

porte, Encuntrez les aveit el cloistre al repeirier. 21 

Dune sunt li chevalier dedenz le cloistre entre, [112] Cuntr'els tindrent les us des moines li 

Les espees es puinz, et des haubers arme, alquant ; 

E uns Huge malclers (issi la-un numme) ; "Ovrez," fet saint Thomas ; qui's ala 

Clers ert Robert del Broc, mult pleins d'iniquit. atendant. 

Avant vindrent li quatre, pur le mal com- "Par sainte obedience!" fet-il, "le vus 

mencier. commant ; 

Mes de luing 1'en siwirent quatre autre Lur voil lur leissiez fere, qui sunt venus(t) 

chevalier ; avant.^ 

Cil Huge ala od els et entra el mustier. Tant cum tendrez les us, n'irai un pas avant. 

20 The first sentence is from Grim. The second (with omissions) from 

21 None of our writers mention these four knights. See below (116#)- I 
have not found authority for the transitive use of " repeirier." 

22 Avant." Can this mean the knights " in front," as distinct from those who 
remained behind, in the cloister ? If it does, how could the Archbishop know of 


No man must make a castle, or fortress, or tower, Of the 
house of God, the true Lord, But we clerks, who are 
ministers and servitors thereof, Are bound to be evermore 
thereof defenders, [And] to make of our body a shield against 
the evil-doer." 

[113] The doors himself he opens and unbars, [And] 
pushed back the common folk 23 that was there assembled 
To see the issue. " What fear ye ? " said he. " See yonder," 
they replied, " the knights in arms." " I will go to them," 
he said. They reply, " You shall not do it." As soon as 
they had caused him to come on the steps of the North, 
They wished to lead him for safety to the Holy Body. 2 * 
" Sirs," said he to the monks, " I tell you, let me be ! You 
have naught to do here ; let God take thought for it. Go 
yonder, up to the choir, to sing your vespers." 

[114] (13) (The Saga) But others run straightway to 
bolt the church. But when the man of God seeth this, he 
turneth back and throweth open the church, saying : " It 
beseemeth Christians in no wise to turn the church into a 

Nuls hum ne deit chastel ne fermet6 ne tur "G'irai," fet-il, "a els." Funt-li il, "ne 

Fere de la meisun Deu, le verai Seigneur ; 1'ferez." 

Mes nus clercs qui en sumes menistre et Tres que sur les degrez del Nort 1'unt fet 

servitur aller ; 

En devrium ades estre defendeur ; A guarant al cors sainz 24 le voleient mener. 

Fere del cors escu cuntre le malfaitur !" "Seigneurs," fet-il as moines, " kar me 

[113] Les us a-il meesmes overs et desbarez ; laissiez ester ; 

Buta le peuple 23 arere, ki la ert assemblez Vus n'avez ci ke fere, Deu en leissiez penser : 

Pur veer 1'a venture. Fet lur il : "Kecremez?" Alez la sus el cuer, a vos vespres chanter." 

Funt-li il : " Veez-ci les chevaliers armes ! " 11. 5376-5405. 

the latter, so as to make such a distinction ? And does Gamier often elsewhere 
use the same disyllabic word to end two consecutive lines ("avant . . . avant")? 
The context, in other writers, suggests something about madness (William, 
above, "delirare"). Some phrase with "ment," signifying "these men who 
are out of their mind " (like the Latin "amens "), would make good sense instead of 

23 "Peuple," (104) "populares." 

24 "Al cors sainz": William has, "when he was advised to betake himself 
to the Holy of Holies." This favours the view that "holy body" means the 
sacred bread on the altar. This seems more probable than "for the [Saint's] 
holy body." 

117 HIS DEATH 73 

castle." So the learned men endeavour to push him on up 
the church, and into the sanctuary, but he goeth with them 
unwilling away from the door. 

[115] (i.) (Stanley, pp. 85-6) The Archbishop continued 
to stand outside, and said, " Go and finish the service. So 
long as you keep in the entrance, I shall not come in." They 
fell back a few paces, and he stepped within the door, but, 
finding the whole place thronged with people, he paused on the 
threshold and asked, "What is it that these people fear?" One 
general answer broke forth, " The armed men in the cloister." 

[116] As he turned and said, " I shall go out to them," 
he heard the clash of arms behind. The knights had just 
forced their way into the cloister, and were now (as would 
appear from their being thus seen through the open door) 
advancing along its southern side. They were in mail, which 
covered their faces up to their eyes, and carried their swords 
drawn. With them was Hugh of Horsea, surnamed Mauclerc, 
a subdeacon, chaplain of Robert de Broc. Three had 
hatchets. Fitzurse, with the axe he had taken from the 
carpenters, was foremost, shouting as he came, " Here, here, 
king's men ! " Immediately behind him followed Robert 
Fitzranulph, 20 with three other knights, whose names are not 
preserved ; and a motley group some their own followers, 
some from the town with weapons, though not in armour, 
brought up the rear. 

[1 1 7] At this sight, so unwonted in the peaceful cloisters 
of Canterbury, not probably beheld since the time when the 
monastery had been sacked by the Danes, the monks within, 
regardless of all remonstrances, shut the door of the cathedral, 
and proceeded to barricade it with iron bars. A loud knock- 
ing was heard from the terrified band without, who, having 

25 [116] "Fitzranulph." Stanley refers only to " Foss's Judges, i. 243." 
No one else mentions Fitzranulph. Is it a confused tradition about (296) Ranulph 
de Broc ? Gamier alone, among our narrators, mentions four knights waiting in 
the cloister, distinct from the four knights who enter the Cathedral. 


vainly endeavoured to prevent the entrance of the knights 
into the cloister, now rushed before them to take refuge in 
the church. Becket, who had stepped some paces into the 
Cathedral, but was resisting the solicitations of those immedi- 
ately about him to move up into the choir for safety, darted 
back, calling aloud as he went, " Away, you cowards ! By 
virtue of your obedience I command you not to shut the 
door the church must not be turned into a castle." With 
his own hands he thrust them away from the door, opened 
it himself, and catching hold of the excluded monks, dragged 
them into the building, exclaiming, " Come in, come in 
faster, faster ! " 

[118] (ii.) (Tennyson) 

BECKET. Together ? . . . get you back ! go on with the office. 

MONKS. Come, then, with us to vespers. 

BECKET. How can I come 

When you so block the entry ? Back, I say ! 
Go on with the office. Shaft not Heaven be served 
Tho' earth's last earthquake clash'd the minster-bells, 
And the great deeps were broken up again, 
And hiss'd against the sun ? [Noise in the cloisters. 

MONKS. The murderers, hark ! 

Let us hide ! let us hide ! 

BECKET. What do these people fear ? 

MONKS. Those arm'd men in the cloister. 

BECKET. Be not such cravens ! 

I will go out and meet them. 

GRIM and others. Shut the doors ! 

We will not have him slain before our face. 

\They dose the doors of the transept. Knocking. 
Fly, fly, my lord, before they burst the doors. {Knocking. 

[119] BECKET. Why, these are our own monks who follow'd us ! 
And will you bolt them out, and have them slain ? , 
Undo the doors : the church is not a castle : 
Knock, and it shall be open'd. Are you deaf? 
What, have I lost authority among you ? 
Stand by, make way ! 

\Opens the doors. Enter MONKS from cloister. 

$121 HIS DEATH 75 

Come in, my friends, come in ! 
Nay, faster, faster ! 

MONKS. Oh, my lord Archbishop, 

A score of knights, all arm'd with swords and axes 
To the choir, to the choir ! 

[MONKS divide, part flying by the stairs on the right, part by 
those on the left. The rush of these last bears BECKET along 
with them some way up the steps, where he is left standing 

[120] BECKET. Shall I too pass to the choir, 

And die upon the Patriarchal throne 
Of all my predecessors ? 

JOHN OF SALISBURY. No, to the crypt ! 
Twenty steps down. Stumble not in the darkness, 
Lest they should seize thee. 

GRIM. To the crypt ? no no, 

To the chapel of St. Blaise beneath the roof ! 

JOHN .OF SALISBURY {pointing upward and downward]. That 

way, or this ! Save thyself either way. 
BECKET. Oh no, not either way, nor any way 
Save by that way which leads thro' night to light. 
Not twenty steps, but one. 
And fear not I should stumble in the darkness, 
Not tho' it be their hour, the power of darkness, 
But my hour too, the power of light in darkness ! 
I am not in the darkness but the light, 
Seen by the Church in Heaven, the Church on earth 
The power of life in death to make her free ! 

2. Omissions and errors 

[121] Why does Benedict alone insert the interesting 
description of the Archbishop's pulling his friends inside ? 
Possibly, Herbert thought it beneath the archiepiscopal 
dignity, and the others may not have known of it. It was 
suggested in the last chapter that Benedict's point of view 
was the front of the procession. If he was there, and 
was shut out, the doors being closed as soon as the Arch- 
bishop had stepped inside, he might well remember, and 


record, his being pulled into the Cathedral by the Archbishop 
himself. Anon. I. at the rear of the procession, and William 
and Grim, inside the Cathedral, may have known nothing of 
what was going on at the door, except that the Archbishop 
was insisting that it should be unbarred. 1 

[122] The prohibition to " turn the church into a castle " 
is omitted by William, 2 by the MS. representing the earliest 
text of Fitzstephen, and probably by the correct text of 
Benedict. It was no doubt uttered by the Archbishop ; 
for Grim, Anon. I., and Gamier all have it, and Herbert has 
adopted it. Grim has " tower " ; Anon. I. "castle " ; Gamier, 
" castle, or fortress, or tower." A fine epigram like this, 
uttered at such a moment, was naturally interpolated, or 
added, in other narratives. 

[123] Not one of our authorities, except Gamier, men- 
tions the four knights who wait as a reserve in the cloister, 
and it is possible that this detail is an instance of (368) the 
Error of Duplication. See however 324. 

[124] The two modern writers have been misled by 
Herbert into supposing that the doors were opened in 
consequence of a " knocking " from the outside. Tennyson, 
however, so far deviates from Herbert as to make the 
" knocking " proceed from the Archbishop's own friends. 
But there seems to have been no " knocking " at all. There 
was no time to allow of it, because the Archbishop had the 
doors unbarred almost before the process of barring was 

Fitzstephen, alone, inserts some words (103) "permit all to enter," 
which may proceed from an imperfect hearing of the words recorded by Benedict 
alone (106) "let my people enter." 

2 [122^] But William, speaking in his own person, inserts in this place some 
remarks containing words that resemble those of Gamier (Mat. i. 132) "Ye have 
not here a fortified castle (castrum) ... or walled or towered city. ..." 



I. The different accounts 

[125] (i) (Grim) Without delay these desecrators, with 
swords unsheathed, advanced into the house of peace and 
reconcilement, even by their mere aspect and the clatter of 
their armour causing no little dread to those who caught 
sight of them. 

[126] (2) (Fitzstephen) Just when he was in the act of 
coming down from the steps toward the door, lest it should 
be closed, John of Salisbury and all his other clerks except 
Robert the Canon, and William Fitzstephen, and Edward 
Grim (who had newly come to him) seeking some protec- 
tion, and making it their [only] care to place themselves in 
safety, left the Archbishop, and made away, some for altars, 
some for hiding-places. 1 

[125] (i) (Grim) Nee mora, sacrilegi gladiis evaginatis ingrediuntur domum 
pacis ac reconciliationis, solo quidem aspectu et armorum strepitu non modicum 
horroris cernentibus ingerentes. 

[126] (2) (Fitzstephen) Eo tune a gradibus descendente versus ostium, ne 
clauderetur, Johannes Saresberiensis et alii ejus clerici omnes, praeter Robertum 
canonicum, et Willelmum filium Stephani, et Edwardum Grim, qui novus ad eum 
venerat, praesidia captantes, et se in tuto collocare curantes, relicto ipso, petiverunt 
alii altaria, alii latibula. 1 

1 The emphatic position of "hiding-places," and the emphasis laid on the 
motives of John and the rest, indicate some contempt. 


[127] And indeed had the Archbishop been willing to 
turn [a little] aside, and to free himself with the protection 
of flight, 2 he might right well have availed himself of oppor- 
tunities, both of time and place, not needing to be sought 
but offering themselves to be used. It was evening. The 
long night of the winter solstice was at hand. The crypt 
was near, full of winding passages, mostly very dark. 
Another door, too, was near, through which he might have 
gone up by a spiral staircase to the arched chambers in 
the roof of the church. Perchance he would not have been 
found : or meantime some change of circumstances might 
have arisen. 3 

[128] But he would do none of these things. He 
neither turned aside, nor stooped to conciliate his murderers, 
nor uttered a murmur or complaint in the whole of his 
agony 4 : but in patient endurance for Christ, and for the 
cause of the Church, awaiting his extreme hour, which was 
now almost upon him, he manifested such a strength and 
steadfastness of mind, body, and speech, as we have never 
heard exceeded [in the history] of any other martyr until 

[127] Et quidem si vellet archiepiscopus declinare, et se fugae praesidio 2 
liberare, optime uti posset, non quaesita, sed oblata occasione temporis et loci. 
Vespera erat, nox longissima instabat ; crypta erat prope, in qua multa et pleraque 
tenebrosa diverticula. Item erat ibi aliud ostium prope, quo per cochleam 
ascenderet ad cameras [et] testudines ecclesiae superiores ; forte non inveniretur 
vel interim aliud 3 fieret. 

[128] Sed nihil horum voluit. Non declinavit, non percussoribus supplicavit, 
non murmur edidit, non querimoniam in tota sua agonia 4 : sed extremam horam, 
quae imminebat, pro Christo et causa ecclesiae patienter expectans, fortitudine et 
constantia mentis, corporis, et sermonis, qualem de aliquo martyrum majorem 

2 In this twofold use of "protection," Fitzstephen seems to contrast the 
Martyr, who looked to the sole protection of God, with John and the rest who 
"anxiously sought other kinds of protection (praesidia captantes)." 

3 The MS. called J reads " aliquid," which was perhaps corrected by the 
author in a later edition to the more definite "aliud." 

4 " Agony," probably in the Greek sense, a " (martyr's) struggle, or conflict," 
Luke xxii. 44 " being in an agony." 

8 130 HIS DEATH 79 

the total consummation. [But] lo, by this time those execu- 
tioners, 6 in furious haste, enter the church door at a running 
pace, seeing it unexpectedly open, 

(3) (John) Omits this. 

[129] (4) (William) While he was still speaking, behold 
the lictors, 7 after searching through the Cathedral palace, 8 
rush through the cloisters. Three of them brought 9 hatchets 
in their left hands, one a two-edged chopper or axe. All 
brandished drawn swords in their right hands. Whither 
rush ye, O men of Belial ? ... ye have not here to storm 
a castle ... or a city . . . fortified. . . . 10 

[130] When they burst into the open doorway, they 
separated from one another at the central door-post on which 
rests the burden of the arch. Fitzurse takes the right side ; 
the three others the left. 

nunquam audivimus, usus est, donee totum consummaretur. 6 Ecce jam illi 
spiculatores, 6 furia invecti, praeter spem apertum cernentes, cursim ostium intrant 
ecclesiae. . . . 

(3) (John) Omits this. 

[129] (4) (William) Adhuc eo loquente, ecce lictores 7 perscrutato palatio 
ecclesiae 8 conglobati per claustra ruunt. Ex quibus tres in laevis secures, unus 
bipennem vel bisacutam deferebat, 9 omnes vero in dextris strictos gladios vibra- 
bant. Quo ruitis, viri Belial ? . . . non expugnandum est castrum . . . non 
civitas . . . circumvallata. . . . 10 

[130] Postquam patens ostium irruperunt, divisi sunt ab invicem ad medium 
postern cui testudinis onus innititur. Ursides dexteram partem, tres alii sinistram 

5 See 315-30. 

6 "Spiculatores," a form of " speculatores," a Greek word used in Mark vi. 
27 of the "executioner" sent by Herod to behead John the Baptist. It suggests 
that they came from the King. 

7 "Lictors," the servants who preceded a Roman Consul, and whose busi- 
ness it was, among other things, to execute consular sentences of death. It is a 
strange word here, but is perhaps used for variety. Herbert also has it (277). 
Is it intended to suggest that they acted as the King's servants ? 

8 " Cathedral palace " (lit. "palace of the church '') is a strange expression, 
but seems the rendering demanded by the order of the words. 

9 " Deferebat " seems to require explanation. 

10 This apostrophe continues for some ten lines of wonderfully florid style. 
The remarks about a "castle" and "fortified city" may be an echo of the 


[131] (5) (Benedict) And, although the man of the Lord 
might have quite n avoided that hour of death, if he had been 
willing, when the aforesaid knights of the King were entering 
into the Minster, 

(6) (Herbert) But when the folding-doors were opened, 
the murderers presently rushing in, 

(7) (Anon. I.) Meanwhile the knights rushed into the 

[132] (8) (Anon. II.) And he might quite 11 have turned 
aside, had he wished, and might have escaped the hands of 
the impious. But he deemed it too unseemly, and indeed 
full fraught with danger, to retreat any further, especially 
since he had by this time publicly proclaimed as with a 
trumpet that he had come to give his head for the Church. 12 

[133] He therefore passed on to take his stand before 
the High Altar, 13 and to consummate the contest, if need 
should be, in his own peculiar place, and to pour forth his 
own blood for Christ in the very spot where he had also been 

[131] (5) (Benedict) Et quum vir Domini illam mortis horam satis n decli- 
nasse potuisset, si vellet, intrantibus in monasterium praedictis satellitibus, 

(6) (Herbert) Valvis vero apertis, mox irruentes carnifices, 

(7) (Anon. I.) Interim irruerunt milites in ecclesiam, 

[132] (8) (Anon. II.) Et utique satis 11 poterat divertisse si vellet, et manus 
impiorum evasisse ; sed nimis indecens planeque periculosum censuit ulterius cedere, 
praesertim cum publice jam insonuisset quod venerat pro ecclesia caput dare. . . , 12 

[133] Transibat igitur ut subsisteret ante altare majus, 13 et in ipsa sede sua 
certamen, si necesse foret, consummaret, ibique suum pro Christo funderet sangui- 

words assigned to the Archbishop by Gamier, Anon. I., and Herbert, but not by 
William about " turning a church into a castle." See 122<z. 

11 " Satis (quite)." This ill-sounding rendering is adopted to express the 
curious construction in Benedict and Anon. II. If it did not occur in both, we 
might have supposed that some word like " facile " had dropped out. 

12 The writer here declares that on that same day the Archbishop had con- 
fessed himself to two of the more religious monks of the Cathedral and had 
made satisfaction according to their decision ; and that this was in accordance 
with his practice for some time past. This explains the following "therefore." 
He was prepared, by (i) confession and (2) penance, to be a sacrifice. 

13 This writer, insisting on the sacrificial aspect of Becket's death, represents 
that he goes up to stand and to die before " the high altar." 

8 133 HIS DEATH 81 

wont to offer up Christ for the salvation of himself and of 
the world. But the malefactors, having collected a band 
not being able at first to seize him (as they had desired) in 
his own Palace, no, nor so much as to set foot in the Palace 
found a guide in that son of Belial, Robert de Broc, (who 
had always been inflamed by a special fury and malignity 
against the Archbishop's fortunes and followers, and had for 
this cause been excommunicated) ; and so, breaking open 
a window, they burst in, and [passing] through the monks' 
cloister, they [now] in spite of the prohibitions and strug- 
gles [of the monks] entered [the church]. 14 

(9) (Anon. IV.) So in headlong haste and madly blind 15 
pursuit of the Archbishop, they enter the church with drawn 

(10) (Anon. V.) Meanwhile the knights, close behind him, 
bursting into (sic) the doors of the cloister, came with drawn 
swords right up to the Bishop (sic) 

nem, ubi et Christum immolare consuerat ad sui mundique salutem. Agmine 
vero coacto malefactores, cum non eum in domo propria comprehendere sicut 
optaverant, immo nee domum ingredi possent, duce quodam filio Belial Roberto 
de Broc, qui nequius et ardentius 'in eum et ejus res fidelesque semper debac- 
chaverat et ob hoc anathema erat, rupta fenestra quadam irruperunt, et per 
claustrum monachorum, quamvis iis prohibentibus et reluctantibus, ingressi sunt. 14 

(9) (Anon. IV.) Praecipites ergo et stupidi 15 insequentes archiepiscopum, ex- 
tractis gladiis intrant ecclesiam, 

(10) (Anon. V.) Interea milites, post tergum illius ostia claustri irrumpentes, 
extractis gladiis usque ad episcopum (sic) pervenerunt. 10 

14 This astonishing sentence appears to go back to describe the forcible entry 
into the palace : and the words " in spite of the prohibition and resistance of the 
monks " agree with nothing in the other narratives. The word " reluctans " is 
applied by others to the Archbishop resisting the efforts of the monks to drag 
him to the Cathedral. It looks as though the writer, attempting to make up for 
a previous omission by a brief misplaced parenthesis, has confused, in the attempt 
to condense, some passage from which he has borrowed. 

15 " Stupidi (madly blind)," because they had no eyes for the foulness of their 

16 This seems loose, (i) They did not burst " into the doors" but " through 
the door." Most of the writers, when they use the pi. " doors," use it for folding- 
doors, either in the Palace hall, or in the Cathedral. (2) They burst into the 

VOL. i 6 


(11) (Anon. X.) So on the entrance of the aforesaid 
King's knights and their accomplices, 

[134] (12) (Gamier) The train of Satan is come to the 
Minster ; In his right hand each bore his naked sword ; 
In the other, the hatchets [above mentioned], and the 
fourth a two-edged axe. A pillar by that place held up 
the arched roof. And this took from them the sight of 
the holy Archbishop. The three went on one side of the 

[135] (13) (The Saga) Now all these things befall at 
once : that he steppeth unto the grades before the choir, 
while the foes of God enter the church with mad crying, 

[136] (i.) (Stanley, pp. 86-9) At this moment the 
ecclesiastics who had hitherto clung round him fled in every 
direction ; some to the altars in the numerous side chapels, 
some to the secret chambers with which the walls and roof 
of the cathedral are filled. One of them has had the rash- 
ness 17 to leave on record his own excessive terror. Even 
John of Salisbury, his tried and faithful counsellor, escaped 
with the rest. Three only remained Robert, canon of 
Merton, his old instructor ; William Fitzstephen (if we may 
believe his own account), his lively and worldly-minded 
chaplain ; and Edward Grim, the Saxon monk. William, 

(il) (Anon. X.) Intrantibus ergo praedictis satellitibus et complicibus 
eorum. . . . 

[134] La meisnie al Satan est el muster venue ; 

En sa destre main tint cbascuns s'esp^e nue ; 
En 1'autre les cuingnies, et li quarz besagiie. 
Un piler ot iluec la volte ad sostenue, 
Ki del saint arcevesque lur toli la veue. 

D'une part del piler en sunt li trei ale. 

11. 5406-11. 

cloister. (3) They did not come " right up to the Archbishop " at all, in a body. 
They separated at the entrance of the Cathedral. Fitzurse was the first to be 
confronted by the Archbishop. Possibly, however, the writer may be condensing 
William's "patens ostium irruperunt " (where the meaning seems to be "doorway ") 
and may mean "the cloister doors that open into the Cathedral." 
" See 142. 

138 HIS DEATH 83 

one of the monks of Canterbury, who has recorded his 
impressions of the scene, confesses that he fled with the 
rest. He was not ready to confront martyrdom, and, with 
clasped hands, 18 ran as fast as he could up the steps. 

[137] Two hiding-places had been specially pointed out 
to the Archbishop. 19 One was the venerable crypt of the 
church, with its many dark recesses and chapels, to which a 
door then as now opened immediately from the spot where 
he stood, the other was the chapel of St. Blaise in the roof, 
itself communicating by a gallery with the triforium of the 
cathedral, to which there was a ready access through a 
staircase cut in the thickness of the wall at the corner of 
the transept. But he positively refused. One last resource 
remained' to the staunch companions who stood by him. 
They urged him to ascend to the choir, and hurried him, 
still resisting, up one of the two flights of steps which led 
thither. They no doubt considered that the greater sacred- 
ness of that portion of the church would form their best 
protection. Becket seems to have given way, as in leaving 
the palace, from the thought flashing across his mind that 
he would die at his post. He would go (such at least was 
the impression left on their minds) to the high altar, and 
perish in the Patriarchal Chair, in which he and all his 
predecessors from time immemorial had been enthroned. 
But this was not to be. 

[138] What has taken long to describe must have been 
compressed in action within a few minutes. The knights 
who had been checked for a moment by the sight of the 
closed door, on seeing it unexpectedly thrown open, rushed 
into the church. It was, we must remember, about five 

18 "Clasped." Better " striking my hands together (complodens manus)," a 
" scenic action," says Quintilian. 

19 None of our writers say this. But Fitzstephen mentions the crypt and the 
roof as possible hiding-places, and Tennyson, above, dramatically puts the 
suggestion into the mouths of Grim and John. 


o'clock in a winter evening 20 ; the shades of night were 
gathering, and were deepened into a still darker gloom 
within the high and massive walls of the vast cathedral, 
which was only illuminated here and there by the solitary 
lamps burning before the altars. The twilight, lengthening 
from the shortest day a fortnight before, was but just 
sufficient to reveal the outline of objects. 

[139] The transept in which the knights found them- 
selves is the same as that which though with considerable 
changes in its arrangements is still known by its ancient 
name of "The Martyrdom." Two staircases led from it, 
one from the east to the northern aisle, one on the west 
to the entrance of the choir. At its south-west corner, 
where it joined the nave, was the little chapel and altar 
of the Virgin, the especial patroness of the Archbishop. 
Its eastern apse was formed by two chapels, raised one 
above the other ; the upper in the roof, containing the relics 
of St. Blaise, the first martyr whose bones had been brought 
into the church, and which gave to the chapel a peculiar 
sanctity; the lower containing the altar of St. Benedict, 
under whose rule from the time of Dunstan the monastery 
had been placed. Before and around this altar were the 
tombs of four Saxons and two Norman archbishops. In 
the centre of the transept was a pillar, supporting a gallery 
leading to the chapel of St. Blaise, and hung at great 
festivals with curtains and draperies. Such was the outward 
aspect, and such the associations, of the scene which now, 
perhaps, opened for the first time on the four soldiers. 

[140] But the darkness, coupled with the eagerness to 
find their victim, would have prevented them from noticing 
anything more than its prominent features. At the moment 

20 [138<z] There is practically no light at 5 P.M. on 4th Jan., which (accord- 
ing to Stanley) corresponds now to agth Dec. then. Still less would there have 
been light inside the Cathedral. What was seen must have been seen by artificial 

141 HIS DEATH 85 

of their entrance the central pillar exactly intercepted their 
view of the Archbishop ascending (as would appear from 
this circumstance) the eastern staircase. Fitzurse, with his 
drawn sword in one hand, and the carpenter's axe in the 
other, sprang in first, and turned at once to the right of the 
pillar. The other three went round it to the left. In the 
dim twilight they could just discern a group of figures 
mounting the steps. 

(ii.) (Tennyson) [Enter the four KNIGHTS. JOHN OF 
SALISBURY flies to the altar of St. Benedict.} 

2. The flight of the Archbishop's friends 

[141] The flight of Becket's "clerks" or "clergy" is 
placed here by Fitzstephen. Herbert, a little before, says 
that he was abandoned by "all his friends (quotquot sui)." 
William, a little later, describes a general panic and flight, in 
which he himself shared. If some hung back when the 
Archbishop descended to meet his enemies, that might be 
called by Fitzstephen the beginning of the flight. It is 
remarkable that Fitzstephen should single out John of 
Salisbury by name among those who fled. Anon. I. above, 
says that in the alarm caused by the soldiers breaking 
into the palace all fled " except some monks and a clerk 
called Edward Grim by name," where Fitzstephen admits 
that he was afraid, but not that he fled. It is not unnatural 
that Fitzstephen, if he stood by the Archbishop here, with 
Grim, should mention the fact ; but his mention of John of 
Salisbury seems to indicate some animosity against the 
latter. John himself is silent about all that occurred in the 
Cathedral till the murder was on the point of being perpe- 
trated. If Anon. I. is to be taken as exactly correct, both 
John and Fitzstephen must have fled from the Archbishop 
in the Palace : but the flight may have been brief. They 
may have returned for a time. 


[142] William's candour in confessing (272) that he 
fled, would contrast favourably with John's absolute silence, 
if we did not bear in mind that the latter is, in effect, 
writing a letter with the view of urging vengeance for the 
murder, rather than a narrative of the murder itself and its 
circumstances. But it seems strange that Stanley (136) 
should call William's candour " rashness," and have nothing 
to say about John's silence especially as William was but 
a recent acquaintance of the Archbishop's while John was 
(as Stanley says) his " tried and faithful counsellor." 



I. The different accounts 

[143] (i) (Grim) Now by this time those who had 
been attending vespers had run up to the fatal spectacle ; l 
and, as the crowd made some confusion and uproar, the 
knights exclaimed in a spirit of mad fury, " Where is Thomas 
Becket, traitor to King and realm ? " Then, as he made no 
answer, they called aloud more urgently, saying " Where is 
the Archbishop ? " At this utterance without a touch of 
fear, and fulfilling the Scripture that saith " the righteous 
man will be as bold as a lion without fear " he comes to 
meet them from the flight of steps 2 whither he had been 
carried 3 by the monks in their fear of the knights ; and in 

[143] (i) (Grim) Turbatisque qui aderant ac tumultuantibus (jam enim qui 
vespertinis intenderant laudibus ad lethale spectaculum 1 accurrerant), in spiritu 
furoris milites exclamaverunt, " Ubi est Thomas Beketh, proditor regis et regni?" 
Quo non respondente, instantius vociferati sunt, dicentes, "Ubi est archiepiscopus?" 
Ad hanc vocem (intrepidus quidem et, ut scriptum est, "Justus quasi leo con- 
fidens absque terrore erit") occurrit e gradu 2 quo delatus fuerat 3 a monachis 

1 Comp. William (104) "as to a spectacle." There it was used of the 
"people (populares)," not of the clerks or monks. And this seems to be the 
meaning here. Grim seems to suggest that the knights were incensed still further 
by the fear of a rescue. 

2 Grim and John seem to use "gradus" sing, for "altar stairs" collectively. 
Comp. Grim (Mat. ii. 441), "altaris conscendens gradum." 

3 "Delatus (carried)." Comp. Anon. I. (109), " the monks again seized the 
man of God and began to escort (deducere) him by the steps into the choir." 
Probably Grim does not mean, "carried in a rush of fugitives seeking their own 


a perfectly audible voice he answered, " Here I am, no traitor 
to the King, but a Priest. What do you seek of me ? " 

[144] (2) (Fitzstephen) One of them said to the monks 5 
that stood by with the Archbishop, " Do not you move ! " 
[And indeed, as though ashamed and astounded, and abashed 
by his countenance, these cut- throats at first drew back on 
seeing the Archbishop. 6 ] Afterwards some one shouted, 
" Where is the traitor ? " To that the Archbishop, possess- 
ing his soul in patience, made no reply. Then said some 
one, " Where is the Archbishop ? " to which he answered, 
" Here am I, no traitor, but priest of God : and I wonder 
that in such attire you have entered into the church of God. 
What is your pleasure ? " 

[145] (3) (John) But when he was on the point of 
enduring his Passion in the church, as has been said, before 
the altar, 7 the Martyr of Christ, before receiving the [fatal] 

metu militum, et satis audibili sermone respondit : " Ecce adsum, non regis 
proditor, sed sacerdos ; quid me quaeritis ? " 4 

[144] (2) (Fitzstephen) . . . Quidam autem illorum monachis 5 dixit, qui cum 
eo astabant, " Ne vos moveatis." [Et quidem quasi confusi et attoniti, a rever- 
entia vultu ejus, illi grassatores primo retulerunt pedem, viso archiepiscopo. ] 
Postea clamavit aliquis, " Ubi est ille proditor?" Archiepisoopus, suam in 
patientia animam possidens, ad verbum illud non respondit. Aliquis item : 
" Ubi est archiepiscopus ? " Ille : " Ecce ego, non proditor, sed presbyter Dei ; 
et miror, quod in tali habitu ecclesiam Dei ingressi estis. Quid placet vobis?" 

[145] (3) (John) Passurus autem in ecclesia, ut dictum est, coram altari, 7 
Christi martyr, antequam feriretur, cum se audisset inquiri a militibus qui ad hoc 

4 The Latin 2nd pers. pi., in these writers, often expresses the French 2nd 
pers. pi., so that the words might be addressed to one man. But when the 
Archbishop addresses Reginald separately, he uses the 2nd pers. sing. (153). 
So we must regard him here as meaning "you and your accomplices." 

5 This, and F.'s subsequent remarks, indicate that the "monks" remained 
when the " clerks " fled. The sentence implies that the knights saw a group of 
monks, but could not, in the dimly lighted cathedral, distinguish the Archbishop 
among them. So they first called out " Do not you stir ! " and then bade them 
say where was the traitor, or the Archbishop. The next sentence is almost 
certainly an interpolation. 

6 The bracketed passage is omitted by J. It does not seem probable that, 
after they had seen the Archbishop, some one should ask where he was. 

7 Strictly speaking, Becket did not die " before the altar " (162)- 

8 146 HIS DEATH 

blow, on hearing inquiry made by the knights, who had 
come for this purpose, and who were calling aloud in the 
crowd of the bystanders, " Where is the Archbishop ? " goes 
to meet them from the flight of steps 8 which he had in 
part ascended, saying, with a fearless countenance, " Here 
am I : what is your will ? " 

[146] (4) (William) But the president of the games of 
God 9 planted his footsteps 10 over against them in a place 
where long ago in a dream he had seen himself crucified, 11 
as it is asserted having, on the left, the cross that was 
wont to precede him ; on the rear, the party-wall ; before 
him, the eicon of the blessed Virgin Mary ; on all sides, the 
memorials and relics of the Saints. In rushes Fitzurse, and, 
coming suddenly on some one, 12 asks him, " Where is the 
Archbishop ? " He (i.e. the Archbishop), forestalling the 

venerant, in turba circum astantium vociferantibus ' ' Ubi est archiepiscopus ? " 
occurrit iis ex gradu 8 quern pro parte ascenderat, vultu intrepido dicens, ' ' Ecce 
ego : quid vultis ? " 

[146] (4) (William) Persians autem mente et corpora agonotheta 9 Dei fixit 
ex adverse gradum 10 ubi pridem per somnium viderat se crucifixum, 11 sicut 
asseritur ; habens a laeva praeviam crucem suam, a tergo parietem, prae se beatae 
Mariae virginis iconiam, circumquaque memorias et reliquias sanctorum. Irruit 
Ursides, et quaerit a quodam quern offendit, 12 "Ubi est archiepiscopus?" 

8 " Flight of steps," see 143. 

9 "Agonotheta (president of the games)" is wrongly used by William as a 
variation for "athleta (champion)." He is fond of using with the result of 
frequently misusing Greek terms (6110), e.g. " iconiam " in this section. 

10 a Footsteps " are mentioned by William where Grim, John, and others, 
mention a " flight of steps." 

11 Fitzstephen (iii. 150) mentions a vision of Jesus crucified in the crypt, in 
the place where St. Thomas was buried. There seem to have been different 
versions of this tradition (162, 426#). 

12 Stanley (155) says, " stumbling against one of the monks, on the lower 
step." But " offendere aliquem " frequently means " come suddenly on," "catch." 
Gamier has simply "encuntre." It is perhaps because of this notion of "stum- 
bling " that Stanley supposes Fitzurse to have advanced as far as the step. Then, 
in consequence of that, the Archbishop (in order to be brought to the place 
where he falls) is supposed by Stanley (155) to "pass" Fitzurse. But all this 
is highly improbable, and not supported by evidence. 


answer of any one but himself, 13 answered with a slight 
motion of the head, " See, I am here." 14 

[147] (5) (Benedict) And, when some cried aloud, 
" Where is the traitor ? " others, " Where is the Archbishop ? " 
the Saint, knowing in the spirit all things that were to come 
to pass concerning himself, 15 goes to meet them from the 
steps, some of which he had by this time ascended, saying, 
with a fearless countenance, " Here am I, no traitor, but 
Archbishop" imitating the Lord, who, when the Jews 
sought him, went to meet them, saying, " I am he." 

[148] (6) (Herbert) , one called out and said, "Where 
is the rebel?" But the Lord's Christ (or Anointed) said 
nothing to this. But a second voice afterwards called out 
and said, " Where is the Archbishop ? " And the Lord's 
Christ replied, " I am he. What is your will ? " 16 

Praeveniens ille omnium responsiones, 13 respondit cum levi motu capitis, "En 



[147] (5) (Benedict) Et aliis " Ubi est ille proditor?" aliis " Ubi est archi- 
episcopus " vociferantibus, sciens sanctus in spiritu omnia quae ventura erant 
super eum, 15 occurrit iis e gradibus, quorum aliquos jam conscenderat, vultu 
intrepido dicens, " Ecce ego, non proditor, sed archiepiscopus " : Dominum 
videlicet imitatus, qui quaerentibus se Judaeis processit obviam, dicens, " Ego 

[148] (6) (Herbert) , clamabat unus, "Ubi est," inquiens, " seductor ille?" 
Sed christus Domini ad hoc nihil. Alter vero subsequenter clamans, " Ubi est," 
inquit, "archiepiscopus?" Et christus Domini, " Ego sum ; quid vultis ? " 16 

13 Lit. "the answers of all." The Archbishop would not permit any of his 
monks or flock to be coerced into giving information ; he saved not only this 
man, but every other, from such a risk. 

14 According to William, the Archbishop neither ascends "steps," nor 
descends them again to meet the knights, but simply plants his "footsteps" near 
the entrance, in the place where he is destined to fall. This throws William into 
complete confusion, for he first represents the Archbishop as being in a place 
where Fitzurse could see him, and then Fitzurse as calling out, "Where is the 
Archbishop ? " 

Stanley (155) has been misled by following William at this point, attempting 
to combine his details with those of other writers. 

15 John xviii. 4. 

16 Below (176) he says that the Archbishop had previously ascended " seven 
or eight steps towards the choir." 

151 HIS DEATH 91 

[149] (7) (Anon. I.) , shouting terribly and crying 
aloud, " Where is Thomas, traitor to the King ? " But to 
this the man of God made no reply. So they shouted 
again, and said, " Where is the Archbishop ? " Then said 
the holy man, " Priest I am, and Archbishop I am : and if 
you seek me, you have found me." Saying these words he 
came down to meet them from the steps he had ascended ; 
and, turning aside to the northern part of the church, took 
up his stand there, by the wall, close to the altar of St. 

[150] (8) (Anon. II.) But when they called out "Where 
is the Archbishop ? " for as it was evening 17 the place was 
very dark so that they could not quickly discern him he 
came to meet them from the steps that he had in part 
ascended, saying to them, " Here am I. What is your 
will ? " 

[151] (9) (Anon. IV.) shouting in mad fury, "Where 
is the traitor ? " But as no one replied, they repeated [their 
shouts, saying], " Where is the Archbishop ? " Now he 
blessed Confessor of Christ and soon to be Christ's Martyr 
knew that it was false to assail him with that former name, 

[149] (7) (Anon. I.) , terribiliter clamantes, et vociferantes, " Ubi est 
Thomas proditor regis ? " Vir autem Domini ad ista nihil respondit. Clama- 
verunt igitur iterum, et dixerunt, "Ubi est archiepiscopus ? " Tune vir sanctus, 
" Et sacerdos," inquit, " et archiepiscopus sum ; et si me quaeritis, ecce, in- 
venistis." Haec dicens descendit obviam eis de gradibus quos ascenderat ; 
divertensque in partem ecclesiae aquilonarem, ibi ad murum prope altare beati 
Benedicti substitit. 

[150] (8) (Anon. II.) Cum autem vociferarentur, " Ubi est archiepiscopus?" 
(erat enim ex vespera ir locus obscurior ut ipsum secernere non mox possent), 
occurrit iis ex gradibus, quos partim ascenderat, dicens, " Ecce ego ; quid vultis?" 

[151] (9) (Anon. IV.) furiose clamantes, " Ubi est proditor ille?" Nemine 
vero respondente, ingeminant illi, "Ubi est archiepiscopus?" Sciens itaque 
beatus Christi confessor, et mox futurus martyr, priore nomine se falso impeti, 

17 The "evening" would probably make no difference, as at that hour, 
nothing could be seen in the Cathedral without lights ; see above (138#). Gamier 
(134) explains the reason why they could not see the Archbishop : a " pillar 
took away their view of him." 


but the latter appertained to him in respect of his office. 
So he went forward, away from the steps, to meet them, 
saying, " Here I am." Now so steadfastly did he bear him- 
self that there was no trace of fear in mind nor of trembling 
in body. 

[152] (10) (Anon. V.) But the Archbishop going to 
meet them by some steps, 18 

(n) (Anon. X.) , and when they called aloud, "Where 
is the traitor ? " he went to meet them with fearless counten- 
ance, saying, " Here am I, no traitor, but Priest of God." 

[153] (12) (Gamier) "The traitor to the King!" they 
sought and demanded. Renald, on the other side, 19 met a 
monk ; He \i.e. Reginald] asked [the monk] for " the Arch- 
bishop." Then did the Saint speak, " Renald, if you seek 
me," said he, " see, here, you have found me." The name of 
" traitor " St. Thomas did not understand : But at the name 
of " Archbishop " he stayed and gave heed : And he meets 
Renald, having come down from the flight of steps : 
" Renald, if you seek me, you have found me," he said, " see, 

[154] (13) (The Saga} , saying: "Where is the traitor 
and betrayer of the realm ? " But when the blessed Thomas 

alterum vero sibi pro officio competere, a gradibus obviam illis procedens, 
" Ecce," inquit, "adsum." In tanta autem se exhibebat constantia, ut nee 
animus ejus pavore nee corpus horrore concuti videretur. 

[152] (10) (Anon. V.) Archiepiscopus vero, per aliquot gradus 18 iis occurrens, 

(n) (Anon. X.) , et vociferantibus " Ubi est ille proditor?" occurrit eis vultu 
intrepido, dicens, "Ecce ego, non proditor sed Dei sacerdos." 

[153] " Le traitur le Rei" unt quis et Le nun de traitur saint Thomas n'entendi ; 

demande. Mes al nun d'arcevesque restut et atendi, 

Renalz, de 1'autre part^S un moine a encuntre ; E encuntre Renalt del degr6 descend! : 
Demanda " 1'arcevesque." Dune a li sainz "Renalz, se tu me quiers, trove," fet-il, 

parl6 : "m'as ci." 

"Renalz, se tu me quiers," fet-il, "ci m'as 11.5412-5419. 


18 The writer probably means "stairs" (not "steps") ; but the expression is 
i.e. on the other side of "the pillar " mentioned in the last chapter. 


19 ,' 

156 HIS DEATH 93 

heareth the knights, he turneth on the grades, 20 and goeth 
straightway down the church to meet them with a fearless 
heart and a blithe countenance, speaking thus : " Here am 
I," said he, " no traitor, but an archbishop ; whom seek ye, 
or what will ye ? " 

[155] (i.) (Stanley, pp. 89-90) One of the knights called 
out to them " Stay." Another, " Where is Thomas Becket, 
traitor to the King?" No answer was returned. None 
could have been expected by any who remembered the 
indignant silence with which Becket had swept by when the 
same word had been applied by Randulf of Broc at North- 
ampton. Fitzurse rushed forward, and, stumbling against 
one of the monks, on the lower step, still not able to dis- 
tinguish clearly in the darkness, exclaimed, " Where is the 
Archbishop?" Instantly the answer came, "Reginald, 
here I am, no traitor, but the Archbishop and Priest of God ; 
what do you wish ? " and from the fourth step, which he 
had reached in his ascent, with a slight motion of his head 
noticed apparently as his peculiar manner in moments of 
excitement Becket descended to the transept. Attired, 
we are told, in his white rochet, with a cloak and hood 
thrown over his shoulders, he thus suddenly confronted his 
assailants. Fitzurse sprang back two or three paces, and 
Becket passing by him took up his station between the 
central pillar and the massive wall which still forms the south- 
west corner of what was then the chapel of St. Benedict. 

[156] (ii.) (Tennyson) 

[Enter the four Knights. John of Salisbury flies to the altar 

of St. Benedict. 
FITZURSE. Here, here, King's men ! 

[Catches hold of the last flying Monk. 

Where is the traitor Becket ? 

20 [154a] "Grades." The text has "steps." But the Icelandic, which is 
the word rendered "grades" in the previous sentence, differs from the Icelandic 
word rendered "steps" (in the sense of "foot-steps") later on. 


MONK. I am not he ! I am not he, my lord. 
I am not he indeed ! 

FITZURSE. Hence to the fiend ! 

[Pushes him away. 
Where is this treble traitor to the King ? 

DE TRACY. Where is the Archbishop, Thomas Becket ? 

BECKET. Here. 

No traitor to the King, but Priest of God, 

Primate of England. 

[Descending into the transept. 

I am he ye seek. 
What would ye have of me ? 

2. What did the Archbishop say ? 

[157] We may regard it as certain that, when the 
knights entered, the cry was raised, " Where is the traitor ? " 
It is omitted by William, John, Anon. II., and Anon V. 
alone ; by the last three perhaps (partly) for brevity ; by all 
perhaps (partly) because nothing came of it at once. The 
Archbishop, as Gamier says, " did not understand," i.e. 
ignored it. 

[158] But the omission may have influenced the omitters 
in what follows : for, if they did not insert " traitor " in the 
cry of the knights, they could not insert " no traitor " in the 
reply of the Archbishop, and they accordingly omit it. 

[159] Herbert omits "no traitor" for a different 
reason, probably because he wishes to assimilate (as Anon. 
IV. also does) the Archbishop's answer to the answer of 
Christ in John xviii. 5 "I am he." The Saga goes further 
still towards John xviii. 4-5, by giving the reply as "Here 
am I . . . Whom seek ye ? " and, for this purpose, actually 
omits the previous question, " Where is the Archbishop ? " 
Thus, by making the knights ask nothing but " Where is the 
traitor ? " it is able to represent St. Thomas as saying, in 
effect, " I do not know who is meant by traitor, but here am 
7, no traitor, but Archbishop. Whom seek ye ? And what 

161 HIS DEATH 95 

will ye ? " And the italicized words are like those in John 
xviii. 4-5. 

[160] Gamier may have omitted the words "no traitor" 
because he felt them a little inconsistent with his statement 
that the Saint " did not understand " the word " traitor " : 
and, having gone so far, he allows himself to express the 
Archbishop's words in a poetic comment on what the Arch- 
bishop thought, so that he omits all reply, except the rather 
contemptuous " Renald, if you seek me, you have found 
me ! " For the same reason, Anon. I., having declared that 
" the man of God said nothing " in answer to the cry of 
" traitor," gives his reply to the cry of " Archbishop," in full, 
" I am both Priest and Archbishop." 

[161] Again, did the Archbishop say (as Benedict 
declares) " No traitor, but Archbishop " ? or (as Grim (copied 
by Anon. X.) and Fitzstephen) " No traitor, but Priest (of 
God) " ? or (as Anon. I.) " I am both Priest and Archbishop " ? 
On this point, the testimony of Grim (an ear-witness) and of 
Fitzstephen (according to his own statement, an ear-witness) 
must rank very high. They might not have heard all : but 
they could be sure of what they did hear : and we may feel 
fajrly certain that they heard these words. There is also 
no reason why they should invent them. They correspond 
to nothing in Scripture. Indeed, Scripture might suggest 
reason for omitting them, as Herbert does. But it is also 
quite possible that they did not catch the last words of the 
sentence, which may have been less easy to hear owing to 
the noise of the by-standers or a dropping of the speaker's 
voice. The last words may well have been added as an 
after-thought, " No traitor, but Priest of God, in the church 
of God, and, if you seek the Archbishop, why, then, Arch- 
bishop too." Having regard to these considerations, and to 
the very high authority of Anon. I., we are justified in con- 
cluding that he, if we add the words " no traitor," will give 
us the substance of what was really said : " Here ! No 


traitor, but Priest of God and Archbishop. And if ye seek 
me, ye have found me." 

3. The Martyr's last footsteps 

[162] William, and Anon. I., here and, in the next 
chapter, Grim and Gamier note the place where the Martyr 
took his stand. It was not as John of Salisbury says, and 
as it came to be believed and recorded in pictures and books 
" in front of (coram) the altar." It was, as Anon. I. says, 
" near an altar of St. Benedict," the Martyr having " turned 
aside to the northern part of the church." William is still 
more definite : " He took his stand in the place where he 
had long ago beheld himself crucified in a dream (so it is 
asserted), having on his left the Cross that went before him ; 
at his back, a wall ; before him, an image of the blessed 
Mary ; on all sides, memorials and relics of the Saints." 
Probably Benedict himself, like William, a monk of 
Canterbury specified the place in his narrative also : but 
as the Quadrilogus has used William's words, it has not 
preserved Benedict's. Grim's description is (168): "Saying 
this, he turned aside to the right under a column, having on 
one side an altar of the blessed and ever Virgin Mother of 
God, on the other side that of the Confessor Saint Bene- 
dict" 1 Gamier (185) says that it was " towards the aisle of 
the North," by a pillar, between two altars, of which the one 
below was consecrated to the Mother of God, the other to 
St. Benedict. 

[163] As in later times the pilgrims are said 2 to have 
been in the habit of kissing the stone where St. Thomas 

1 [162a] Shortly afterwards, Grim has " following whose example he [the 
Archbishop] . . . was crucified to the world," This is quite different, in mean- 
ing, from William's statement here, that St. Thomas, in a vision, had seen him- 
self " crucified" in this place. But the two may be different versions of one 
tradition (146, 426). 2 Saga, i. 541. 

163 HIS DEATH 97 

fell, it is worth while noting the various phrases bearing on 
the Martyr's last movements : 

1 I ) (Grim) . . . occurrit e gradu quo delatus fuerat. 

(2) (Fitzstephen) (102) jam quatuor gradus ascenderat. 

(3) (John) occurrit Us ex gradu quern pro parte ascenderat. 

(4) (William) fixit ex adverso gradum ubi . . . 

(5) (Benedict) occurrit Us e gradibus quorum aliquos 
jam conscenderat. 

(6) (Herbert) (176) septem octove gradus conscenderat. 

(7) (Anon. I.) descendit obviam eis de gradibus quos 
ascenderat, and (177) stabat in gradu suo. 

(8) (Anon. II.) occurrit Us ex gradibus quos partim 

(9) (Anon. IV.) a gradibus obviam illis procedens. 
( i o) (Anon. V.) per aliquot gradus Us occurrens. 

(11) (Anon. X.) occurrit eis vultu intrepido. 

(12) (Gamier [113, 153]) Tres que sur les degrez del 
Nort 1'unt fet aller (1. 5401). E encuntre Renalt del degre 
descendi (1. 5418). 

(13) (The Saga} He steppeth unto the grades before the 
choir ... he turneth on tJte grades. . . . That knight of 
God, the Archbishop, is so firmly planted by the Holy Ghost, 
that he moveth nowhere from his steps. . . . He turneth to 
the East, towards that altar of our Lady . . . whereat he 
had stood in those steps of the Holy Ghost which we men- 
tioned before. 

It should be added that the Saga connects a miracle 
with these " steps." For it adds, " But the church of Can- 
terbury beareth witness, ever since, to what Lord God the 
Holy Ghost did in this case, according to what is written, 
inasmuch as the very marble rendered itself soft to the foot- 
steps of 'the Archbishop, as if he had stood on snow, or some 
other yielding matter. As an everlasting testimony of this, 
these footsteps may still be seen, and now receive many a kiss 
amid the devotion of kneeling pilgrims." 


[164] Are we to suppose that Fitzstephen was so keen 
an observer that he noted the exact number of steps to be 
" four," and thought it worth recording, simply as a statistical 
fact ? and that Herbert, who was not present, knew of 
Fitzstephen's tradition, and thought it worth contradicting? 
Even if we grant both these suppositions, why does William, 
omitting all mention of " ascending steps," say " planting 
his steps" while Anon. X. omits all mention of the word, 
alone among the eleven narrators ? 

[165] It is possible that we have here an instance of 
literary corruption. If William had a version of John's 
tradition " fit ex adverse (for " fit obviam ") e gradu," it 
might be corrupted to " fixit ex adverse gradu (i.e. gradum)." 
Anon. X. may have wholly omitted the phrase because it 
was obscure. 3 Be this as it may, led by the Saga, and by 
antecedent likelihood, we may infer with probability that, 
although some of the earliest traditions laid stress on the 
ascending and descending of the steps by the Archbishop, 
the later traditions found it better to concentrate the devo- 
tion of pilgrims on the place where he had finally taken his 
stand and fallen. 4 

4. Stanley and Tennyson 

[166] In the two modern accounts, Tennyson is re- 
markably faithful to the best authorities. He represents 

3 If it did not seem probable that Anon. X. borrowed "intrepido vultu " 
from Benedict or John, it might be worth considering whether some confusion 
originated from Garnier's French. "Degre" might have been taken by the 
writer as two words "de [bon] gre," i.e. "voluntarily." 

4 Gamier, speaking of the Apostle St. Thomas and the Martyr St. Thomas, 
says (11. 5773-4) " El servise Deu unt tuz les cine sens mis, E tuz les cine degrtz 
unt muntez et purpris." Stanley (p. 228) quotes, from the hymn repeated 
by St. Thomas's pilgrims, as they mounted the steps leading to the grave to 
which he was ultimately transferred, " Fac nos Christo scandere Quo Thomas 
ascendii." It is possible that a few traditions saw a mystical meaning in the 
Saint's " ascending and descending," but could not agree as to the best mystical 

167 HIS DEATH 99 

Fitzurse as " catching Jiold of the last flying monk," imme- 
diately upon entering the Cathedral, not as (Stanley) 
" stumbling upon " him on " the lower step " of the northern 
staircase. Also, Stanley's version of the reply to " Where 
is the Archbishop?" though following Gamier pretty 
closely, does not express the contempt that breathes in 
the latter. " Reginald, here I am, no traitor," sounds ex- 
postulatory. But, in the French second person singular 
naturally used by a lord addressing a vassal " Renald 
[thou ' man ' of mine], if thou seekest me, thou hast found 
me " is a very different thing. Tennyson's version agrees 
with that of the ear-witnesses, and is shorter, sharper, and 
better every way. It is a pity, however, that the poet 
inserted " I am he ye seek." Moreover the rather mag- 
niloquent " Primate of England " is not so good as the 
repeated " Archbishop " in the original. For the meaning 
is " You seek the Archbishop ? Then you have found 
the Archbishop." 

[167] Stanley's notion that Fitzurse "sprang back two 
or three paces " and that Becket " passed by him " into the 
corner of the chapel of St. Benedict is not supported by the 
evidence. The only support for it, at this stage, is a 
passage of Fitzstephen, omitted by the MS. that represents 
the earliest text. 


I. The different accounts 

[168] (i) (Grim) He had told them before that he had 
no fear of them, and now he added, " I am ready to suffer in 
the name of Him who redeemed me by His blood. Far be 
it from me to flee for your swords, or to quit the path of 
righteousness." Saying this, he turned aside to the right 
under a pillar, having on one side the altar of the blessed 
Mother of God and ever Virgin Mary, on the other, that of 
the Confessor St. Benedict under whose protection, and 
[by] whose example, he was [presently] crucified to the 
world and to the lusts thereof, and endured with such a 
steadfast courage every penalty inflicted by the executioner 
of the flesh, 1 that you might have thought he was not in 
the flesh. 

[168] (l) (Grim) Et qui se eos non timere jam antea dixerat, adjunxit, 
" Praesto sum in nomine Ejus pati qui me sanguine suo redemit ; absit ut propter 
gladios vestros fugiam, aut a justitia recedam." Quo dicto divertit in dextram 
sub columna, hinc habens altare beatae Dei genetricis et perpetuae virginis Mariae, 
illinc vero sancti confessoris Benedicti ; quorum exemplo et suffrages crucifixus 
mundo et concupiscentiis ejus, tanta animi constantia ac si in carne non esset, 
quicquid camifex l inferebat, sustinuit ac superavit. 

1 " Carnifex (executioner)" here rendered "executioner of the flesh" to 
keep up the apparent play on "carne." Elsewhere (69) the knights are 
called "torturers (tortores)." For "crucified," applied to St. Thomas, see 146. 
John elsewhere (Mat. ii. 317) speaks of him as "crucifying his flesh" by 

170 HIS DEATH 101 

[169] He was followed by his torturers. "Absolve," 
said they, " and restore to communion, those whom you have 
excommunicated, and restore the right of office to those who 
are suspended." " No satisfaction," he replied, " has been 
given to prepare the way [for their restoration], and I will 
not absolve them." " You, too," 2 said they, " shall [suffer 
and] die this instant, receiving your desert." " I, too," said 
he, " am ready to suffer for my Lord, that in my blood the 
Church may obtain liberty and peace : but I interdict you, 
in the name of God, from harming in any wise those who 
are mine, whether clerks or laymen. . . ." 3 Most fit was it 
that the true soldier of the Captain of Salvation should walk 
in the footsteps of his Saviour, who, when he was sought by 
the wicked, said, " If ye seek me, let these go their way." 4 

[170] So they made assault on him, and cast on him 
sacrilegious hands, dragging him on roughly and violently 
that, having him outside the church, they might either cut 
his throat there, or bind him and carry him off as they 

[169] Quern insecuti carnifices, "Absolve," inquiunt, "et communioni restitue 
quos excommunicasti, et caeteris officium redde qui suspensi sunt." Quibus 
ille, " Nulla," ait, "satisfactio praecessit, nee eos absolvam." "Et 2 tu," inquiunt, 
"modo morieris, suscipiens quod meruisti." " Et ego," ait, "pro Domino meo 
paratus sum mod, ut in meo sanguine ecclesia libertatem consequatur et pacem ; 
sed meis, sive clerico, sive laico, in nomine Dei omnipotentis interdico ne in 
aliquo noceatis." 3 . . . Decuit plane Ducis sui militem martyrem Salvatoris 
inhaerere vestigiis, qui, quum quaereretur ab impiis, " Si me," inquit, "quaeritis, 
sinite hos abire. " 4 

[170] Igitur, facto impetu, manus sacrilegas injecerunt in eum, durius ilium 
contrectantes et trahentes, ut extra fores ecclesiae aut jugularent, aut vinctum inde 

2 [169] " Et . . ." apparently means "you, too, as well as those whom you 
have caused to suffer, shall suffer and shall suffer something worse." " Et ego " 
plays on this first use of "et." If the punctuation were " Et 'tu,' inquiunt," 
the meaning would be " And they replied, ' You shall die at once.' " 

3 Here Grim inserts a remark that the Martyr herein provided not only for the 
safety of his followers but also for his own glory, which would have been shadowed 
by "any very serious mischance befalling one that stood by his side (proximi casus 
tristior). " This comes very gracefully from Grim, whose arm was almost cut in two 
in the attempt to protect the Martyr. Presumably Grim did not regard this as 
"very serious." 4 John xviii. 8. 


afterwards confessed. But besides that they could not easily 
move him from the pillar, he also, when one of them pressed 
rather too vigorously on him and came too close, shook him 
right away, calling him a pander, and saying, " You must 
jiot lay finger on me, Reinald. You owe me fealty and 
obedience. You act like a madman, you and your accom- 

[171] (2) (Fitzstephen) One cutthroat made reply, 5 
" Your death. It is impossible that you should live [a 
minute] longer." " I accept death," replied the Archbishop, 
" in the name of the Lord, and I commend my soul and the 
cause of the Church to God and St. Mary and the Patron 
Saints of this church. Far be it from me to flee for your 
swords ! But, by the authority of God, I interdict you from 
touching any one of those who are mine." One of them had 
a two-edged axe and a sword too, that in (?) [the strength 
of] 6 the hatchet (?) and two-edged axe, they might batter 
down the door of the church if barred against them ; but, 
keeping his sword, he set down the two-edged axe ; and it 
is there to this day. A certain one struck him with the flat 
of his sword between the shoulders, saying, " Fly ! you are a 
dead man." But the Archbishop stood on unmoved, and 

asportarent, sicut postmodum confessi sunt. Sed cum facile non posset a columna 
moveri, unum ex ipsis acrius insistentem et accedentem propius a se repulit, 
lenonem appellans, dicensque " Non me contingas, Reinalde, qui fidem ex jure 
debes et subjectionem ; insipienter agis cum tuis complicibus." 

[171] (2) (Fitzstephen) Unus grassator: 5 " Ut moriaris ; impossibile est ut 
vivas ulterius." At ille : " Et ego in nomine Domini mortem suscipio, et 
animam meam et ecclesiae causam Deo et beatae Mariae et sanctis hujus ecclesiae 
patronis commendo. Absit ut propter gladios vestros fugiam : sed, auctoritate 
Dei interdico, ne quempiam meorum tangatis." Aliquis eorum bisacutam et 
gladium simul habuit, ut in securi et bisacuta, si eis obfirmaretur, ostium 
dejicerent ecclesiae ; sed retento gladio, bisacutam, quae adhuc ibi est, deposuit. 
Quidam eum cum piano ense caedebat inter scapulas, dicens, " Fuge, mortuus es." 
Ille immotus perstitit, et cervicem praebens, se Domino commendabat ; et sanctos 

5 " Made reply," in answer to the Archbishop's question, "What is your will ?" 

6 " In," though intelligible in Hebraic Greek, is unintelligible here. There 
is probably some corruption. 

173 HIS DEATH 103 

presenting his neck [to the blow] commended himself to 
God ; and his lips repeated the names of the holy Arch- 
bishops who were martyrs [before him], St. Denis, and St. 
Elphege of Canterbury. 

[172] Some, 7 saying " You are [our] prisoner, you will 
come with us," laid hands on him, and would fain have 
dragged him out of the church. [And perhaps they would 
have persisted] had they not feared that the people would 
rescue him. The Archbishop replied, " I will go nowhere 
hence. Here shall you work your will and obey your orders." 
And with all his force he struggled against them. 

[173] (3) (John) To this, 8 one of the knights, those 
ministers of death, in a spirit of mad fury, rejoined, " Your 
instant death : for it is impossible that you should live [one 
minute] longer." Then the Archbishop answered, steadfast 
in voice as in heart for, with all reverence for the Martyrs, 
I venture boldly to say that in my judgment none surpassed 
him in steadfastness " I, too, 9 am ready to die for my God, 
and for the assertion of righteousness and the liberty of the 
Church. But if you seek my life, I forbid you, in the name 

archiepiscopos martyres in ore habebat, beatum Dionysium et sanctum Aelfegum 

[172] Aliqui 7 dicentes, " Captus es ; venies nobiscum r " injectis manibus, 
eum ab ecclesia extrahere volebant ; nisi timerent, quod populus eum esset 
erepturus de manibus eorum. Ille, respondens, " Nusquam ibo ; hie facietis 
quod facere vultis et quod vobis praeceptum est," quod poterat, renitebatur. 

[173] (3) (John) Cui 8 unus funestorum militum in spiritu furoris intulit, " Ut 
modo moriaris ; impossibile enim est ut ulterius vivas." Respondit autem archi- 
episcopus non minori constantia verbi quam animi quia, quod (omnium martyrum 
pace) ex animi mei sententia fidenter dixerim, nullus videtur isto fuisse constantior 
" Et 9 ego pro Deo meo mori paratus sumet pro assertione justitiae et ecclesiae 
libertate. Sed si caput meum quaeritis, prohibeo ex parte omnipotentis Dei, et 

7 The absence of names is noticeable. Fitzstephen tells us that (102) the 
knights had their visors down : and apparently he could not distinguish them with 

8 In answer to the question " What is your will ? " 

9 [173] Here " et " seems to mean, " I as well as you." " You wish not to 
delay my death ulterius. I too wish the same" 


of Almighty God, and under penalty of anathema, to harm 
in any wise any other, be he monk, clerk, or layman, high or 
low : 10 but let them be as exempt from penalty as they have 
been from action to deserve it. For not to them, but to me, 
must be imputed the charge, if any of them have undertaken 
the cause of the suffering Church. 11 Willingly do I embrace 
death, if, through the shedding of my blood, the Church can 
obtain peace and liberty. . . ." Do not his words seem to set 
forth an image of Christ, saying in His Passion, " If ye seek 
me, let these go their way " ? 12 

[174] (4) (William) " Reginald, Reginald, I have bestowed 
many benefits on you. Do you come armed to me ? " He 
replied, " You shall know. Are you that traitor to the King? 
You will come this way," 13 and struck off his cap with the 
point of his sword. " I am no traitor," rejoined the Arch- 
bishop, " I will not go out [of the church], abominable man "- 
and shook free from the knight's hand the border of his 
pallium. Then the knight thundered in reply " Fly ! " "I 

sub anathemate, ne cuiquam alii, sive monacho sive clerico vel laico, majori vel 
minori, 10 in aliquo noceatis, sed sint immunes a poena sicut extiterunt a causa ; 
non enim illis, sed mihi imputandum est, si qui eorum causam laborantis ecclesiae 
susceperunt : ll mortem libenter amplector, dummodo ecclesia in effusione 
sanguinis mei pacem consequatur et libertatem." . . . Verba ejus nonne Christum 
exprimere videntur in Passione dicentem, "Si me quaeritis, sinite hos abire"? 12 
[174] (4) (William) " Reginalde, Reginalde, multa tibi contuli beneficia. 
Ingrederis armatus ad me?" "Scies," ait, "tune ille regis proditor? Hue 
abscedes," 13 pileumque mucrone decussit. " Non," inquit, " proditor sum ; non 
egrediar, vir abominabilis, " palliique sui laciniam de manu excussit. Ergo subin- 

10 So the Saga has it (191) : and this makes better sense than " old or young." 

11 This seems written rather for the Pope and for partisans of the Church, 
than for those who wanted to know what the Archbishop really said. It must be 
remembered that the writer probably ran away before this. 

12 The omitted words comment on the Archbishop's anxiety " lest those who 
were nearest (proximi) to him should be hurt." In this, and what follows, Grim 
(169) agrees with John. As it is comment, not fact, Grim probably borrowed 
from John. 

13 "Hue abscedes," if not an error for "hue accedes" (comp. Benedict 
"veni hue"), would seem to mean "This way! You must leave," i.e. leave the 

176 HIS DEATH 105 

will not fly," said the Martyr : " here you shall glut your 
malice." [As though] smitten by these words the assassin 
recoiled two or three paces. He was all but striking ; but 
he hesitated, either because he was gathering his strength, or 
because, for the time, mindful of past [benefits] he was 
disposed to spare his lord, through whom he had obtained 
promotion and an introduction to the King. Meanwhile, 
the three others attack him with insults, saying, " You shall 
die this instant." To these he replied, " If you seek my life, 
I prohibit you under the interdiction of anathema from 
harming any of those who stand round [me]. Willingly do 
I embrace death, provided that the Church, through my blood, 
may obtain liberty and peace." 

[175] (5) (Benedict) Then the first of them came up to 
the Saint, and said, " Fly ! You are a dead man." " In no 
wise," said the Saint, " will I fly." So the sacrilegious King's 
knight, laying hands on him, and casting down his cap with 
the point of his sword, said, " Come this way ! You are my 
prisoner." " I will not come," replied the Saint : " here 
shall you do to me what you will " and shook free from the 
knight's hand the border of his pallium. 

[176] (6) (Herbert) The other, in tones of thunder, 
replied, 14 " That you should die. Nor shall you live any 

tonat"Fuge." Subjunxit " Non fugiam ; hie tuam explebis malitiam." Quibus 
verbis sicarius repercussus duos passus vel tres resiliit. Percussurus quidem erat, 
sed haerebat, aut quia vires suas colligebat, vel quia interim domino suo memor 
praeteritorum parcebat, per quern promotus regiam familiaritatem adeptus fuerat. 
Interea tres alii insurgunt insultantes, " Inpraesentiarum morieris." " Si caput," 
inquit, " meum quaeritis, prohibeo sub interminatione anathematis ne cuiquam 
circumstantium noceatis. Mortem libens amplector, dummodo ecclesia in 
sanguine meo libertatem consequatur et pacem." 

[175] (5) (Benedict) Accedens autem primus illorum dixit sancto " Fuge, 
mortuus es." Ait sanctus, " Nequaquam fugiam." Sacrilegus autem satelles, 
manu in eum conjecta, pileumque mucrone dejiciens, "Veni hue," inquit, 
"captus es." At sanctus "Non veniam," inquit ; "hie mihi facietis quae facere 
vultis " : palliique sui laciniam de manu ejus excussit. 

[176] (6) (Herbert) Et ille, intonando, " Ut moriaris," inquit, 14 "nee 

14 In answer to the question " What is your will ? " 


longer." And the Archbishop said, " And I, too, 15 am 
ready to lay down my life for my God and for the liberty of 
the Church." But, wonderful to relate, this brave president 
of the games of God, 16 singularly great and greatly singular, 
whereas (before those butchers had entered the church) 
he had already gone up seven or eight steps on his way 
towards the church choir (to which one goes up by steps), 
now, as soon as he saw swords in the church, [and] drawn, 
hastened to confront them. And ... he reproved those 
gladiators with all authority for entering the Church, their 
mother, in a manner so disorderly and profane. And as for 
one of them who had first come up close to him and then 
tried to seize him the Archbishop, [taking him] by his 
hauberk, shook him off with a force that almost prostrated the 
man on the pavement. This was William de Traci, as [Traci] 
himself afterwards confessed. 

[177] (7) (Anon. I.) So the four knights above mentioned, 
coming up to him together with a certain clerk whom they had 
brought with them (Hugo Mauclerc by name), said to him, 
" Absolve with all speed the King's Bishops, whom you have 

ullatenus vives." Et ille, " Et 15 ego," inquit, "pro Deo meo et pro ecclesiae 
libertate paratus animam ponere." Sed, quod mirum dictu, iste tam fortis 
Domini agonotheta, 16 singulariter magnus et magnifice singularis, qui antequam 
lanistae illi intrassent ecclesiam, versus chorum ecclesiae pergens, ad quern per 
gradus ascenditur, septem octove gradus jam conscenderat, mox ut gladios in 
ecclesia exsertos vidit, festinanter occurrit. ... Et ... gladiatores cum omni 
imperio arguens, quod tam inordinate, tam profane, matrem suam ecclesiam 
introissent, unum eorum, qui prius appropinquaverat, manu mox apprehendens, 
per loricam tam valide excussit, quod ipsum fere ad pavimentum usque prostravit. 
Willelmus de Traci hie erat, sicut ipsemet postea de se confessus est. . . . 

[177] (7) (Anon. I.) Accedentes igitur ad eum quatuor milites memorati, et 
quidam clericus quern secum adduxerant, cui nomen Hugo Malus-clericus, 
dixerunt ei, "Absolve celeriter episcopos regis, quos excommunicasti. " Quibus 

15 "I, too." See 169a and I73a. 

16 "Agonotheta." See William's use of this word (146). But one MS. has 
"agoniteta." Herbert may have used "agonista" (i.e. "champion"), and it 
may have been perverted into conformity with William's form. 

178 HIS DEATH 107 

excommunicated ! " "I will do nothing," said he, " other 
than what I have said and done." Then began they to 
threaten him with death. But he answered, " I fear not 
your threats, for I am ready to die for God : but let my men 
go, and lay not a finger on them." Then they cast hands on 
him, and began to drag him on by force, striving to set him 
on the shoulders of William [de Tracy], and to cast him forth 
from the church. But the holy man stood firmly in the place 
of his footsteps, and could not be moved from the spot. For 
Master Edward, who, alone of all his [clerks], had remained 
with him, held him back stoutly against all their efforts. And 
when Rainald Fitzurse, who had first cast hands on him, 
pressed on him very forcibly, the man of God shook him off 
and dashed him away from himself with such force that he 
almost fell flat on the pavement, saying to him, " Back ! Away ! 
You are my man. You may not so much as lay a finger 
on me." 

[178] (8) (Anon. II.) And when one of the knights 
shouted aloud, " Your death ; 17 for you cannot possibly live 
a minute longer," he courageously answered, " I, too, 18 am 
ready to die for God and my Church." Now they had 
come with hauberks, helmets, and naked swords. Frightened 

ille, " Non faciam," inquit, " aliud nisi quod jam dixi et feci." Tune coeperunt 
ei minari mortem. Quibus ille respondit " Minas vestras non timeo, nam mori 
pro Deo paratus sum ; verumtamen homines meos dimittite, neque contingatis 
eos." Injecerunt igitur manus in eum, coeperuntque eum fortiter trahere, 
nitentes eum imponere humeris Guillelmi et de ecclesia ejicere. Sed vir sanctus 
firmiter stabat in gradu suo, nee loco moveri potuit ; magister namque Edwardus, 
qui solus ex omnibus suis cum eo remanserat, validissime eum contra eos retinebat. 
Cumque Rainaldus filius Ursionis, qui primus injecerat manus in eum, vehementius 
instaret, excutiens se vir Dei impegit eum a se, ita quod fere corruit super 
pavimentum, dicens illi " Recede hinc ; homo meus es, contingere me non debes." 
[178] (8) (Anon. II.) Unoque proclamante militum, " Ut moriaris ; 17 nee 
enim esse potest ut ulterius vivas," constanter respondit, " Et 18 ego pro Deo et 
ecclesia mea paratus sum mori." Venerant autem in loricis et galeis ensibusque 

17 In answer to the question " What is your will ? " 
is "I, too." Seel69tf, YlZa, 176- 


by these, the monks and clerks scattered and fled away in 
all directions 19 as though fulfilling here a second time the 
Scripture " I will smite the shepherd and the sheep shall be 
scattered." Now at first they strove to seize him in their 
arms and carry him away [from the church]. But presently 
they gave up the hope of this, because he, disdaining to 
follow, struggled against them though only in word ; 20 
then they feared that rescuers might come in and snatch him 
from their hands, so that he might escape once more from 
the realm : and so at last they were inflamed to madness 
against him, as though the devil were urging them headlong 
to their act of murder. 

[179] (9) (Anon. IV.) The knights immediately cast 
their hands on him and held him, [hoping] to drag him out- 
side the church, to execute their purpose [there]. But they 
were alarmed by the vast concourse of men and women and 
feared that he might be rescued before their object was 
attained. This made them hasten their crime. 

[180] (10) (Anon. V.) , and demanding life for his [friends 
and attendants], and praying for his murderers, 21 he said," Will- 
ingly, so far as my frail flesh suffers, will I undergo death." 

nudatis, quibus perterriti subito dilapsi sunt hue illucque cum cleris monachi, 19 
tanquam et hie iterum impleto quod scriptum est " Percutiam pastorem et disper- 
gentur oves." Nisi sunt autem primo comprehensum eum abducere. Quod fieri 
posse desperantes, cum sequi dedignans solo tamen verbo reluctaretur, 20 
timentesque ne supervenientibus auxiliis ereptus denuo regnum exiret, velut ad 
facinus praecipitante diabolo caedis in ipsum furia mox exarserunt. 

[179] (9) (Anon. IV.) Cui statim injicientes manus milites eum tenuerunt, ut 
extra ecclesiam ad peragendum propositum traherent. Sed timentes undique 
concurrentium utriusque sexus multitudinem, ne forte voto infecto eriperetur, 
facinus acceleraverunt. 

[180] (10) (Anon. V.) , suisque vitam postulans, et pro suis occisoribus 21 orans, 
" Libenter," inquit, "quantum mea fragilitas patitur, mortem suscipiam." 

19 This author (like Herbert) represents the flight of Becket's followers as 
being universal, like that of our Lord's disciples. 

20 This directly contradicts the statement of the earlier writers that St. Thomas 
shook off Fitzurse (or Tracy) with great violence. 

21 [1800] An extraordinary mistake. To explain it as arising from Herbert's 

181 HIS DEATH 109 

[181] (11) (Anon. X.) And, turning to one, he said, 
" What is [this], Reginald ? Do you come to me, [and] into 
a church, in arms ? " " You shall presently know," 22 he 
replied, " you are a dead man." The Archbishop answered, 
steadfast in voice as in heart, " Willingly, 23 too, do I undergo 
death for the sake of righteousness. But, on the part of God, 
I forbid you from harming any other man": imitating 
Christ, who said in His Passion, "If ye seek me let these 
go their way." 24 While he was uttering these words, they 
cast their sacrilegious hands on him, with all speed dragging 
him on that they might accomplish their sacrilegious enter- 
prise outside the church. But, being held by one 25 of his 
clerks, he could not easily be moved. 

[181] (II) (Anon. X.) Et ad unum conversus dixit, "Quid est, Reginalde? 
Ad me in ecclesiam armatus accedis?" Cui ille, "Jam scies; 22 mortuus es. " 
Respondit archiepiscopus non minori constantia verbi quam animi, " Et libens 23 
mortem suscipio pro justitia. Sed ex parte Dei prohibeo ne cuiquam alii 
noceatis " : Christum imitans, in Passione dicentem, "Si me quaeritis, sinite hos 
abire. " 24 Haec eo dicente ipsi manus sacrilegas injecerunt in eum, quantocius 
trahentes eum ut extra ecclesiam inceptum sacrilegium adimplerent. Sed tentus 
ab uno 25 clericorum suorum facile moveri non poterat. 

statement that the Saint " prayed for his own, pro suis," would necessitate the 
improbable conclusion that this author wrote after Herbert. More probably it is 
to be explained by the fact that the Archbishop of Sens, in a letter (Mat. vii. 
431) written to the Pope, from imperfect information, immediately after the 
murder, has a similar phrase, "pro occisoribus suis exoravit." This belief may 
have, for some time, influenced French writers. Besides, errors of this sort are 
common in ecclesiastical writings : " What ought to have happened must have 
happened. St. Stephen, the first martyr, prayed for his murderers : therefore 
St. Thomas, the last, nmst have done the same." 

22 These words, assigned by Quadrilogus to Benedict, occur also (without 
"jam") in William. The author appears to take them from Benedict, or from 
a version of Quadrilogus. 

23 "Willingly, too." This author retains, but misplaces, the traditional "et," 
169a, 17&z, etc. 

24 "Go their way." The words "The Archbishop ... go their way" 
are condensed from John. 

25 " One." This implies, though it does not mention, Grim. This confirms 
Grim against Fitzstephen, who says (219) that the monks held him, and Grim 
with them. 


[182] (12) (Gamier) By the corner of his mantle had 
Renald seized him : " Renald," said the good Priest, " so 
many benefits have I done thee, 26 And what seekest thou 
of me in holy church, in arms?" Said Renald Fitzurse 
to him, " Certainly you shall know." (He had pulled him 
toward himself, so that he (i.e. the Martyr) was all shaken.) 
" Traitor to the King are you," said he, " Here ! You must 
come forth ! " 

[183] So forth from the holy Minster he thought to 
drag him. One may well suppose that St. Thomas was 
wroth at that deed, Because this Renald roughly pulled and 
pushed him. So strongly did he smite Renald that he 
recoiled backward, And the corner of his mantle he shook 
free from his hands. 

[184] "Fly hence, evil man," 27 said the holy Priest, " I 
am no traitor, nor ought to be accused." 28 " Fly," said 

[182] Par le corn del mantel 1'aveit Renalz [183] Kar hors del saint mustier trainer le 

saisi ; quida ; 

" Renalz, tanz biens t'ai fez," 26 fet-li buens Bien crei que saint Thomas a cele feiz s'ira 

ordenez, De 90 que cil Renalz le detrest et buta. 

" E que quiers-tu sur mei en sainte Eglise Si ad enpeint Renalt k'arrere rehusa, 

armez ? " E la corn del mantel hors des mains li sacha. 

Fet Renalz li fils Urs : " Certes vus le saurez ! " [184] "Fui, malveis hum 27 d'ici," fet li 

(Sachei 1'aveit a sei, que tut fu remuez ;) sainz ordenez. 

"Traitur le Rei estes," fet-il, "cha en "Jo ne sui pas traltres, n'en dei estre retez." 28 

vendrez ! " " Fuiez," fet li Renalz, quant se fu purpensez. 

26 "Thee." The Archbishop addresses Fitzurse in the 2nd pers. sing, as a 
lord might address a vassal. Fitzurse addresses the Archbishop here in the 2nd 
pers. plural. 

27 [1840] "Fui, malveis hum d'ici." Anon. I. represents St. Thomas as 
saying to Rainald "You are my man." Did he understand "hum d'ici" to 
mean "man of this person"? or did Gamier (25#) misunderstand "You are my 
man"? Could "fui" be a form of "fi," i.e. "fie ! ", which, in Latin, is spelt 
"phui"? More probably "fui" represents Anon. I. "Recede hind homo 
meus es." The Saga represents Tracy as saying to St. Thomas, "Flee, thou 
art death's man." William represents the Archbishop as saying to Fitzurse, "I. 
will not go out, abominable man." 

28 "Nor ought to be accused." This is extremely weak. What is needed 
is " I am no traitor, \>\& priest of God" "dei presbyter," " prestre deu" (instead 
of "dei estre retez"). In the next line, "purpensez" is, literally, "had taken 

5< 186 HIS DEATH 

Renald, when he had recovered himself. " I will not," said 
the Saint ; " here shall ye find me, And here accomplish 
your great felonies." 

[185] Toward the aisle of the North went the [noble] 
man, And held himself by a pillar close beside it. Between 
two altars is that pillar placed. To the Mother of God is 
the one below 28a hallowed, In the name of St. Benedict is 
the other consecrated. There did they drag and draw him, 
these servants [of the King] in their fury : " Absolve," said 
they, " those who have been excommunicated, And those 
who have been by you suspended and inhibited." " I will 
not do," he replied, "anything else than I began to do." 
Then they all together began to threaten to kill him. 

[186] Said he, "Of your threats I am not afraid; To 
suffer martyrdom I am wholly prepared ; But my friends let 
go, touch them not. And do with me alone that which 
you are to do." In death the good shepherd did not 
forget his own [flock]. So it happened with God, when He 
went to pray Upon Mount Olivet, during the night. . . . 286 
And those who sought him began to cry out, " Where is the 
Nazarene ? " " Here can ye find me," Said God unto them, 
" but let my [friends] all go." 

" Ne 1'ferai," dit li sainz, " ici me troverez, [186] Fet-il : "De vos manaces ne sui es- 
E voz granz felunies ici accomplirez." poantez : 

[185] Devers 1'ele del Nort s'en est li bers Del martire suffrir sui del tut aprestez, 

alez, Mes les miens en leissiez aler, n'es adesez ; 

E a un piler s'est tenuz et acostez. E fetes de mei sui 50 que fere devez." 

Entre dous altels ert cil pilers mesurez ; N'a les suens li buens pastre a la mort obliez. 

A la mere Deu est cil de desuz 2 * 1 sacrez ; Eissi avint de Deu, quant il ala orer, 

El non seint Beneit est li autres ordenez. Desur munt d'Olivet, la noit a 1'avesprer : 2 ^6 

La 1'unt tret et mene li ministre enragie : E cil li commencierent qui 1'quistrent, a crier : 

" Assolez," funt-il, " eels qui sunt escummingi6, " U est li Nazareus?" " Ci me poez trover," 

E eels ki sunt par vus suspendu et lacie !" Fit lur Deus, " mes les miens en leissiez tuz 

" N'en ferai," fet-il, "plus que je n'ai aler." 

A ocire 1'unt dune ensemble manaci6. 

28 "Desuz," according to Roget (Old French, p. 342), a form of "desoz," 
i.e. " dessotis" not " dessus." 

286 ^ 1'avesprer" often = " au soir," but seems tautological here unless it 
means "on the evening \beforethe Passion]." 


[187] Then did they seize him in their hands, those 
sons of Satan, So did they begin with all their might to 
drag and draw him, And on the shoulder of William [de 
Tracy] they would fain have placed him ; For outside did 
they wish either to slay or to bind him. But from the 
pillar could they not thrust nor move him away. Even as 
St. Thomas leant on the pillar, [Namely, Him] who suffered 
death on the cross to establish His Church, None could 
move him away nor thrust him therefrom. But now it was 
fitting to deliver one man alone to death At the pillar of 
the Minster, to save the people. 29 

[188] For those who should rather have held by the 
Church, Would fain have altogether crushed both her and 
her members, [And] cast down to earth the pillar, and the 
head that sustained her. Meet it was to wash this blood of 
sin with blood [of the sinless] ; In order to raise up the 
head, [it was meet] to give the Head of the head. 30 It 
was not God's will that he should be shamefully treated ; 
Thus did he prove those evil-working people, Whether they 
could dare in the Minster to do so cruel a sin, For there is 
none such a felon from here to the East That would hear 
tell thereof, and not feel shame for the deed. 

[187] Dune 1'unt saisi as puinz li fil a 1'aversier, [188] Car cil qui mielz d^ussent sainte Eglise 

Si 1'commencent forment a trere et a sachier, tenser 

E sur le col Willams le voldrent enchargier ; La voldrent et ses menbres del tut agraventer, 

Kar la hors le voleient ou occire ou Her. Le piler et le chief ki 1'sustint aterrer. . 

Mes del piler ne 1'porent oster, ne esluingnier. Icel sane de pechi covint par sane lavere, 

Cum seint Thomas s'esteit apuiez al piler, Pur relever le chief, le chief del chief doner.3 

Ki suffri mort en croiz pur s'iglisle estorer, Ne Deus ne voleit pas k'il fust traitiez vil- 

Ne 1'en poeit nuls huem esluignier ne oster. ment : 

Mes ore en coveneit un sul a mort livier, Si 1'fist pur espruver cele malveise gent, 

Al piler del mustier, pur lepueple sauver. 29 S'osassent el mustier errer si cruelment. 

Car il n'a si felun, entres k'en Orient, 
Qui en 01 parler, qui ne s'en espoent. 

29 John xi. 50. The "pillar" is Christ: and the Saint cannot be moved 
because he leans on Christ. 

30 The general meaning is clear, that the Archbishop must fall as a sacrifice. 
But what is meant by ' ' the head of the head " ? Comp. 132, ' ' give his head 
for the Church." Is there any allusion to the Pauline doctrine about the 

S 191 HIS DEATH 113 

[189] Master Edward Grim had seized him with all his 
might, And had clasped him from behind when they had 
attacked him ; [And] held him fast against them all, by 
naught dismayed, Nor, for all the knights did, had he 
abandoned him, Though clerks, though servants, had all fled 
from him. Master Edward held him for all that they 
dragged him : " What will ye do ? " said he, " Are ye mad ? 
Consider where ye are, and to whom belong 30a the holy 
places ! To lay hand on your Archbishop is great sin." 
But neither for thought of holy places nor for the Minster 
do they let him go. 

[190] (13) (The Saga) But the knight that goeth first 
is the knight William de Traci. He strideth forward to the 
Archbishop, saying, " Flee," he said, " thou art death's man." 
The Archbishop answereth, " I flee nowhither." Then the 
knight seizeth the mantle with one hand, and with the 
other 31 smiteth the mitre from off the Archbishop's head, 
saying, " Go hence, thou art a prisoner. It is not to be 
endured that thou shouldst live any longer." The Arch- 
bishop pulleth to him the skirt of the mantle, speaking thus : 
" Hence I go nowhither, and here you shall do to me what- 
ever you please. I am now ready to give my life for the 
freedom of Holy Church, in the name of Him who purchased 
her peace in His blood. Think never that I shall yield 
God's right to your swords." 

[191] The lord Archbishop, seeing that, next to 
William, Reginald sweepeth forward towards him with a 

[189] E mestre Edward Grim 1'aveit forment Mestre Edward le tint kan k'il 1'unt desachie : 

saisi, " Que volez," fet-il, "fere? Estes-vus enragie ? 

Enbrascie par de sus, quant 1'orent envai ; Esguardez u vus estes et qui sunt li feirie ! 30a 

Cuntr'els tuz le retint, de rien ne s'esbahi, Main sur vostre arcevesque metez a grant 

Ne pur les chevaliers ne 1'aveit pas guerpi ; pecchie ! " 

Si clerc et si sergant s'en erent tuz fui. Mes pur feirie ne 1'unt, ne pur mustier lessie. 

11. 5420-85. 

30 "Q u i" i s for "cui." "Feirie" is (Godefroy) "lieu ensacre." 

31 The Saga alone represents the "mitre" as struck off with the hand. The 

evidence of early pictures, and the Latin "pileus," indicate rather "skull-cap" 

than "mitre." For "mitre" William uses "mitra" (698). 

VOL. i 8 


drawn sword, speaketh thus : " To thee, Reginald, I have 
done many good things, and yet thou comest armed to my 
church " 32 words resembling those of our Lord the Son of 
God, when the Jews laid hands on him. 33 But Reginald 
answereth the Archbishop : " Thou shalt surely know, now 
that I am come, 34 for thou art a man of doomed life." The 
blessed Thomas answereth, " If you are minded to have my 
life, I forbid you on behalf of God, under penalty of ex- 
communication, that you do no hurt to any of my men, 
higher or lower. Let them be as exempt from pain as 
they are free from guilt." 

[192] And when the holy Archbishop Thomas had thus 
shewn this episcopal steadiness, God's enemies seize him for 
the purpose of dragging him out of the temple, in order that 
they may do their deed of shame rather without the church 
than within. But this is not to be done ; for that knight of 
God, the Archbishop, is so firmly planted by the Holy 
Ghost that he moveth nowhere from his steps : and yet in 
that tug he hath no more aid of man than one monk and a 
clerk hight Edward who bore the cross. 35 But the church 
of Canterbury beareth witness ever since to what Lord God 
the Holy Ghost did in this case, according as it is written, 
inasmuch as the very marble rendered itself soft to the foot- 
steps of the Archbishop, as if he had stood in snow or some 
other yielding matter. As an everlasting testimony of this, 

32 So Magnusson, rendering "Atf kirkju til min." The other writers say, 
or imply, " into the church, against me." But Stanley has " my church." 

33 The reference probably is to John x. 32 " Many good works have I 
shewed you . . . For which of those works do ye stone me ? " 

34 The words "now that I am come" appear to be inserted in order 
to explain "Thou shalt know," which is misplaced and ought to have 
come immediately after the Archbishop's question "What will ye?" The 
Saga takes it to mean " Thou shalt know [the difference] now that I have 

35 [1920] According to Fitzstephen, (i) the cross was borne by (Mat. iii. 138) 
Henry of Auxerre, and (2) Fitzstephen himself remained with the Archbishop, 
as well as Robert of Merton and Edward Grim. 

194 HIS DEATH 115 

these footprints may still be seen, and now receive many a 
kiss amid the devotion of kneeling pilgrims. 36 

[193] (i.) (Stanley, pp. 90-91) ["Reginald, you have 
received many favours at my hands ; why do you come into 
my church armed ? " 37 ] Fitzurse planted the axe against his 
breast, and returned for answer, " You shall die I will tear 
out your heart" 38 Another, perhaps in kindness, striking 
him between the shoulders with the flat of his sword, ex- 
claimed, " Fly, you are a dead man." " I am ready to die," 
replied the Primate, " for God and the Church ; but I warn 
you, I curse you in the name of God Almighty, if you do 
not let my men escape." 

[194] The well-known horror which in that age was felt 
at an act of sacrilege, together with the sight of the crowds 
who were rushing in from the town through the nave, turned 
their efforts for the next few moments to carry him out of the 
church. Fitzurse threw down the axe, and tried to drag him 
out by the collar of his long cloak, calling " Come with us 
you are our prisoner." " I will not fly, you detestable 

36 [192^] Many miracles were performed on the place where the Archbishop 
stood in his last moments. It is probable that some marks in the stone were 
made by the monks to indicate the exact spot. These (perhaps under the in- 
fluence of some poetic tradition how " the very stones were softer than the hearts 
of his murderers and received the imprint of his feet ") may have led to the con- 
clusion that St. Thomas's feet actually left miraculous footprints on the Cathedral 

A similar story is told about the baptism of St. P'rancis, that a stranger who 
attended it " disappeared after the ceremony, leaving the print of his knees on 
the stone upon which he had knelt " ; on which the comment made by a recent 
biographer is that " There is nothing incredible in them " [i.e. traditions of this 
kind] " to those who believe in the constant and consistent action of a good 

But is it not " the constant and consistent action of a good God" to make 
such traditions depend (as on this occasion) on evidence that is always weak, 
and mostly worthless ? And ought not believers in God to be influenced by this 
" action of a good God " ? 

37 Repeated from last section. No authority except the Saga (191) has the 
words "my church." 

38 These details are not mentioned in any of our authorities. Stanley quotes 
for them "Grim 79, Anon., Passio Quinta, 176." 


fellow," was Becket's reply, roused to his usual vehemence, 
and wrenching the cloak out of Fitzurse's grasp. The three 
knights, to whom was now added Hugh Mauclerc, chaplain 
of Robert de Broc, struggled violently to put him on Tracy's 
shoulders. Becket set his back against the pillar, and 
resisted with all his might, whilst Grim, vehemently remon- 
strating, threw his arms around him to aid his efforts. In 
the scuffle Becket fastened upon Tracy, shook him by his coat 
of mail, and exerting his great strength, flung him down on the 

[1 95] It was hopeless to carry on the attempt to remove 
him. And in the final struggle 40 which now began, Fitzurse, 
as before, took the lead. But, as he approached with his 
drawn sword, the sight of him kindled afresh the Archbishop's 
anger, now heated by the fray ; the spirit of the chancellor 
rose within him, and with a coarse epithet, not calculated to 
turn away his adversary's wrath, he exclaimed, " You profligate 
wretch, you are my man you have done me fealty you 
ought not to touch me." 4 

39 ' ' Flung him down. " For this, Stanley refers to Benedict, Anon. I. , Herbert, 
and Gamier (as well as Gervase). But none of these writers say that any one 
was " flung down ": and two expressly say that he "almost fell down." The 
others use "shook off," "recoiled," etc. Stanley adds, "All but Herbert and 
Gamier believe this to have been Fitzurse. " This is a mistake, for Gamier says 
it was Fitzurse. It is important to note that the only one who says Tracy was 
"shaken off" is Herbert, the latest of the authoritative writers, relying (as will be 
seen hereafter) on hearsay evidence. 

Dramatically, the error is of some importance. By adopting it, Stanley and 
Tennyson are enabled to make a pause, during which, according to Stanley, 
Tracy gets up and takes off his hauberk. According to Tennyson (242), while 
Tracy is rising from the ground, Fitzurse strikes the Archbishop, and the latter 
utters his prayer of commendation. 

40 "Struggle" is hardly the right word. There is no more "struggle." 
What "now began" was butchery. 

41 This is Stanley's worst mistake. When the Archbishop saw his end thus 
approaching, he committed his soul to God. The Archbishop's hard words to 

Fitzurse were uttered when the latter was trying to drag him out of the church. 
The knightly Martyr would not be pushed and pulled about by his vassal, like a 
sheep by a butcher, but he was ready to abide the stroke of the sword. 

199 HIS DEATH 117 

[196] (ii.) (Tennyson) 

FITZURSE. Your life. 

DE TRACY. Your life. 

DE MORVILLE. Save that you will absolve the bishops. 

BECKET. Never, 

Except they make submission to the Church. 
You had my answer to that cry before. 

DE MORVILLE. Why, then you are a dead man ; flee ! 

[197] BECKET. I will not. 

I am readier to be slain, than thou to slay. 
Hugh, I know well thou hast but half a heart 
To bathe this sacred pavement with my blood. 
God pardon thee and these, but God's full curse 
Shatter you all to pieces if ye harm 
One of my flock ! 

FITZURSE. Was not the great gate shut ? 
They are thronging in to vespers half the town. 
We shall be overwhelm'd. Seize him and carry him ! 
Come with us nay thou art our prisoner come ! 

[198] DE MORVILLE. Ay, make him prisoner, do not harm the 

[FITZURSE lays hold of the ARCHBISHOP'S pall. 

BECKET. Touch me not ! 

DE BRITO. How the good priest gods himself! 

He is not yet ascended to the Father. 

FITZURSE. I will not only touch, but drag thee hence. 

BECKET. Thou art my man, thou art my vassal. Away ! 

[Flings him off till he reels, almost to falling. 

DE TRACY (lays hold of the pall}. Come ; as he said, thou 
art our prisoner. 

BECKET. Down ! 

[Throws him headlong. 

2. The words of the dialogue 

[199] Grim, having the advantages of proximity and 
steadfastness (which implies presence of mind and ability to 
note and remember) is our best authority here. Then why 
does he omit the words of the knights, (i) (in answer to the 


question, "What is your will?") "Your death," and (2) 
" Flee ! " 

The reason appears to be that he concentrates his 
attention on the words of the Martyr, But these, as he gives 
them, harmonize well with these utterances of the knights, as 
will be seen by inserting them in italics, as follows, in the 
passage of Grim (Mat. iii. 435) "Why do ye seek me? 
[THE KNIGHTS. That ye may die.} ..." Behold, I am 
ready to suffer in the name of Him who redeemed me by His 
blood." [THE KNIGHTS. Fly! Come this way ! etc.] "Far 
be it from me to fly, or move a step from the straight course 
of righteousness ! " The Archbishop then passes into the 
place of martyrdom, near a " pillar," and here the demand 
is made that the Bishops shall be absolved. He refuses. 
The knights repeat their threats. " Thou shalt die," they 
cry : to which he replies, that he is ready to die for the 
liberty of the Church, but prohibits the knights, on pain of 
excommunication, from harming those with him. 

[200] Not till now do the knights, fearing a rescue, seek 
to place him on Tracy's shoulders and to haul him out of 
the church : and not till now does the Archbishop, loathing 
such treatment, and perhaps preferring the sword to such 
handling, shake off Fitzurse, almost dashing him on the 
floor, calling him " pander," and saying in effect, " You 
are my 'man,' you act like a blind fool. Every knight 
knows his lord. You do not, for you are no knight." 

3. Has Grim omitted any of the Archbishop's words? 

[201] (i) Gamier and Anon. I. agree in saying that 
the Archbishop said to Fitzurse (Gamier) " Fly, bad man, 
hence (Fui, malveis hum d'ici) ! " or (Anon I.) " Recede hinc, 
homo meus es." This is confirmed by an interesting letter 
written to the Pope anonymously by one who says that, 
though not present at the murder, he came to Canterbury 

203 HIS DEATH 119 

the same day. His account is as follows : " They pursue 
him with drawn swords before the altar accosting him thus, 
' Fly, traitor ! A cruel death awaits you.' [I should have 
said that] they had first asked, owing to the great number of 
monks and clerks present, ' Where is the Archbishop ? ' To 
this, he, in a low but perfectly audible tone, replied, 1 ' I am 
he ; 2 and as for you, Reginald, and your accomplices, 3 get 
you back, 4 for ye know not what ye do. 5 But if ye seek 
me for slaughter, lay no finger on the rest. 6 I am ready to 
receive death in the name of Him who deigned to die for me 
His servant.' " 7 

[202] Although in every phrase of this letter there is 
apparent a bias that conforms the Martyr's words to those 
of Scripture, yet it furnishes important confirmation of the 
view that the first attempt of the knights was to scare the 
Archbishop out of the church, and that he said to Fitzurse, 
" Back ! " or " Fly [yourself, instead of bidding me fly] ! " 

Did Grim, then, omit these words ? He probably did, 
and for this reason, that, when the Archbishop sent Fitzurse 
staggering back so that he almost " fell in a crash upon the 
pavement," this was a practical way of expressing " Back ! " 
which might well seem to render the word itself superfluous. 

[203^ (2) Did the Archbishop say to Fitzurse, and Grim 
omit, the words, " I have bestowed many benefits on you " ? 

1 Mat. vii. 436 " demisso quidem sed audibili valde sermone respondit." 
Comp. Grim (143) "satis audibili sermone respondit." 

2 " I am he (ego sum) " approaches more closely than our writers to John 
xviii. 5. 

3 "Cumtuis complicibus." Comp. Grim (170) " insipienter agis cum tuis 

4 " Vade retro," probably an allusion to the words of Christ (Matth. xvi. 23), 
"Get thee behind me, Satan." 

5 Probably an allusion to Luke xxiii. 34, "they know not what they do." 

6 "Lay no ringer (contingatis)," the word used by Anon. I. The rest use 
' tangere," "nocere," etc. 

7 Grim has two versions, (l) "to suffer for Him who redeemed me with His 
blood," (2) "to die that in my blood the Church may obtain liberty." William 
has (2). The others do not mention " blood." 


It is antecedently improbable. Yet William and Bene- 
dict (222) (if the Quadrilogus is right), besides Gamier, 
assign these words to the Archbishop. William, however, 
makes the appeal a merely personal one, being, in effect, " I 
have been very kind to you, and do you come to me in 
arms ? " an absolutely impossible utterance for any man of 
spirit. And how impossible for such a man as this an 
Archbishop, too, absorbed in the cause of the Church, and 
seeing the sanctity of the Church violated by the entrance 
of armed men ! The tradition may have found favour as in- 
dicating the mildness of the Saint, for the same reason that 
induced almost all the writers to drop the word " pander ! " 
which Grim alone describes as applied by the Arch- 
bishop to Fitzurse. The Saga may have retained the 
erroneous tradition because it presented a likeness to some 
words of Christ (John x. 32" many good works " ) which the 
poet quotes in the context. Possibly the originator may 
have confused something that meant " I am your lord, and 
benefactor," with the words now extant about " benefits." 

In any case, the probable conclusion is that the Martyr 
did not utter the words in their present context. 8 Ante- 
cedent improbability would not suffice to condemn them : 
but their omission by Grim, Anon. I., and Fitzstephen, is 
almost conclusive. For at least two of these writers must 
have heard the words if they were uttered : and there is no 
reason why they should have omitted them. 

8 [2030] The words, " I have bestowed benefits on you and you come to me 
in arms," are somewhat like a saying of the Archbishop's to the knights in the 
Palace (Mat. iii. 135), "You know what there is betwixt you and me" \_i.e., 
as Fitzstephen explains, Fitzurse, Tracy, and Morville, had " become his men "], 
"and hence I the more wonder that you dare to threaten the Archbishop in his 
own house." 

To those who transferred this saying from the Palace to the Church, three 
courses would be open, (i) to omit "in his own house," (2) to substitute "a 
church," (3) to substitute "his church." William does (i), Benedict and 
Gamier (2), the Saga (3). See above (108^) for another error probably caused 
by confusing the Cathedral with the Palace. 


[204] (3) As regards William's words, " Do you come 
armed to me ? " it is scarcely possible that they were uttered 
thus. But the Archbishop may very well have reproached 
Fitzurse with his blind sacrilege, when he told him that he 
was " acting like a fool." Placed at that point, and with the 
addition of the words " into holy church," or " into a church," 
they may well have been uttered, and yet omitted by Grim 
as implied in the brief statement of " folly." 

4. Striking off the cap 

[205] William and Benedict, alone among our authorities, 
represent a knight as striking off the Archbishop's cap with 
the point of his sword, not apparently as the result of a blow 
aimed at his head, but in order to terrify him into flight. 
The Saga modifies the detail so as to shew more distinctly 
that it had this object, saying that Fitzurse smote "the 
mitre " off with his hand. 

In the parallel passage, Fitzstephen says that some one 
struck the Archbishop " with the flat of his sword on the 
shoulder." No one else mentions this : and the question 
arises whether he may not be describing the same act as 
that mentioned by William and Benedict, seen from a 
different point of view. 

This supposition will be found confirmed in the next 
chapter by Anon. I., who says that Fitzurse struck a blow 
that (i) cast the cap to the ground, (2) lighted on the 
Archbishop's left shoulder, yet (3) did not strike down, or 
even move, the Archbishop himself, though it was really 
the first blow that drew blood. But this will be discussed 
below. Meantime, it may be taken provisionally that 
William, Benedict, and the Saga, are wrong. Fitzstephen's 
blow on the shoulder might possibly be part of the " rough 
handling " mentioned by Grim ; but it so well corresponds 
with the first blow, as described by Anon. I., and as mis- 


described by William and Benedict, that we may provision- 
ally regard him also as in error. 

5. Who, if any one, was "shaken off" by the Archbishop ? 

[206] Fitzstephen and John mention no one as " shaken 
off." John's silence counts for nothing, on account of his 
general brevity ; but the omission of the former requires a 
different explanation. It is probably this, that he wished 
to represent St. Thomas as dying, like most martyrs, in a 
lamb-like manner. The same motive leads Anon. II. to say 
that " he resisted in word alone " : and we have seen above 
that Anon. V. actually represents him as "praying for his 
murderers," which is hardly compatible with " shaking them 
off" so as to make them "almost fall to the earth." 

Without going so far as this, Benedict (if correctly 
represented by the Quadrilogus) supports William in saying 
that the Archbishop " shook off" the corner of his mantle 
from Fitzurse's hand. William then adds a word or two 
between the Archbishop and Fitzurse, and then says, 
" Smitten by these words, the assassin recoiled two or three 

[207] This ought to suffice any reasonable man, to shew 
that the Archbishop did, as Grim says, "cast back," or as 
Anon. I. says, "dash away, shaking himself free (se excu- 
tiens) " somebody. Ecclesiastical notions suppressed, or 
softened, what seemed to be a " scandal." But the scandal 
was there. The Archbishop did, in a very emphatic way, 
" dash," or " cast," or " shake," some one. And the only 
question is, whom did he treat thus? 

[208] Herbert expressly tells us that Tracy was the 
knight here " shaken off." But, beside being the latest of 
the writers, he himself tells us that his statement is based on 
a subsequent confession of Tracy to others, not on testimony 
collected from eye-witnesses. Now in the struggle between 



the Archbishop and the knights it is possible that more than 
one may have been " shaken off" by him at different times ; 
and Tennyson accordingly represents both Fitzurse and Tracy 
as thus shaken off, and the former first. For many reasons, 
therefore, Herbert's testimony cannot weigh heavily against 
that of Grim supported by Anon. I. and Gamier. 1 

[209] William says that the Archbishop "shook off" 
the corner of his mantle from Fitzurse's hand, and then, 
when the latter said " Fly," replied, " I will not fly. Glut 
thy malice here." " Smitten by these words" adds William, 
" the assassin recoiled two or three paces." - Absurd though 
this is, it shews that Fitzurse, at all events, did recoil 
(whether Tracy did, too, or did not) according to William 
himself; so that the latter indirectly confirms Grim. 

[210] We may conclude with certainty that Fitzurse, 
and not Tracy, was the knight who was (pre-eminently) 
" dashed back," and almost fell to the ground. Very prob- 
ably, this was simultaneous with the " shaking free " of the 
mantle. Herbert's words " shook him off by the hauberk 
(per loricam tarn valide excussit) " may possibly be another 
version of the tradition " shook the corner of his mantle 
free (laciniam e manu excussit)." 

[211] It is interesting to see, reproduced here, the same 
contrast between Fitzstephen and Herbert that appeared 
at the Council of Northampton. There, Herbert advised 
excommunication ; Fitzstephen, prayer. Here Fitzstephen 
suppresses the fact that St. Thomas was a fighting Saint. 

1 [2080] Herbert elsewhere (Mat. iii. 5 13) quotes Tracy as saying in confession 
that (whereas, before the deed, he had walked lightly and easily) in retiring after 
the deed he felt as if he should at any moment fall into the earth which seemed 
opening to receive him. Such a confession might be easily confused with a state- 
ment of fact, that he did actually, in his sacrilegious attempt, recoil and almost 
fall to the earth. 

? William goes on to express a doubt whether the consequent hesitation to 
strike arose from physical causes or from remorse. The Quadrilogus omits all this, 
and adds ascribing the addition to William " Like those who, in our Lord's 
Passion, when the Lord said, ' I am he,' went backward and fell to the ground." 


Herbert on the contrary glories in it. For Scriptural reasons, 
no doubt, he would have liked to adopt the view of William 
and the Quadrilogus, that the Martyr simply said " I am he," 
and that the murderers, " struck by these words" as in the 
Gospel (John xviii. 6), "went backward and fell to the 
ground." But the fighting spirit is so strong in him that he 
not only inserts the fact, but takes pains perhaps to add a 
detail. The " corner of the mantle," he seems to think, was 
an error : the fact was (according to Herbert) that Thomas 
got a grip on Tracy by his hauberk, and, with that aid, hurled 
him backward and almost dashed him on the pavement. 

6. Hugh of Morville 

[212] The grounds on which Stanley elsewhere, and 
Tennyson here, represent Hugh of Morville as gentler than 
the rest are probably these : 

Benedict, in describing the Palace interview, says that 
when the knights left the Archbishop's room with threats, 
" he followed them as far as the chamber-door, repeatedly 
calling to Hugh of Morville who ought (debebat) to have 
been better than the rest in reasonableness as he was in 
birth to return to speak to him." 

[213] This however does not say that Hugh was better, 
but only that he ought to have been. Stanley, it is true 
(p. 80), refers to Benedict and Gamier as justifying his state- 
ment that the Archbishop " implored Moreville, as more 
courteous than the others, to return and repeat their message." 
But this misrepresents the facts, (i) " Repeatedly calling, or 
shouting (inclamitans) " is not "imploring." (2) By saying 
that Hugh " ought to have been better," Benedict implies, in 
this context, that he was not better. (3) Benedict himself 
represents John of Salisbury as remonstrating with the 
Archbishop for following the knights to the door and provoking 
them (Mat. ii. 9), " What need was there for a man of your 

216 HIS DEATH 125 

position to get up [from your seat] [simply] to exasperate 
these rascals and to follow them even to the door ? " So far 
from " imploring," then, Becket seemed to John to be 
irritating Morville. And this is borne out by Gamier, who 
tells us that, although the Archbishop perfectly well heard 
what the knights had said when they proclaimed him a 
traitor, he rose up and followed them to the door, challenging 
them to repeat it (1. 5268) : " And he cried aloud after them, 
Hugh, What is that you said? Say [it again]. (Et cria 
apres els, Huges, k'as tu dit ? di !) " And so, too, Anon. I. 
(Mat. iv. 74), " Hearing their threats, the holy man got up 
and followed them right up to the door of the chamber : and 
[there], to a knight joining in these threats, he said, What 
do you say ? Say \it again'] ! Say \it again} ! " 

[214] William devotes more space to Morville than to 
the other three murderers all together. He tells a frightful 
tale about Morville's mother, how she first attempted to gain 
the love of young Litulf, one of her husband's vassals, and 
then, as he refused, contrived a plot that resulted in his 
being boiled to death. All this is intended to shew that 
from Morville himself, being " the offspring of vipers," 
nothing but venom could be expected. This bears on the 
present question so far as it indicates no belief among the 
Canterbury monks that he was gentler than the rest. 

7. Stanley and Tennyson 

[215] The modern writers have been led by William's 
error (supported by Gamier) to insert touches of softness 
and personal appeal that distort the whole scene. 

[216] Tennyson has gone so far as to make the Arch- 
bishop say to one of the knights, that he has " but half a 
heart" for his foul work, and even "God pardon thee and 
these ! " We may be sure that if St. Thomas had thus 
imitated St. Stephen, the whole of the ecclesiastical world 


would have heard, marked, believed, and inculcated the 
historical fact, in such a way that it should never be for- 
gotten. It is a real mischief that the poet should have done 
the Saint this injustice for an injustice it is, because it does 
not appreciate his kind of saintliness, that of a knight. 1 

[217] Stanley, beside making the Saint speak of " my 
church," misses the sequence of cause and effect in leading 
up to the first blow. It was not the " sight of Fitzurse's 
drawn sword " that " kindled afresh the Archbishop's anger." 
The " drawn sword " which will not come in its place till the 
next chapter warned the Martyr of his imminent death, 
and he prepared himself accordingly. There were no 
" coarse " words after that. The " coarse epithet " addressed 
to Fitzurse, and the rebuff that almost dashed him to the 
ground, were the results of Thomas's knightly loathing at 
being dragged and hauled about by men whom he despised 
as his inferiors and detested as brutal instruments of 
despotism. These words and these acts of the Saint were 
not saintly according to the ordinary standard. They 
sprang from the defects of his qualities. But, had it not 
been for them, he might never have died a Martyr's death. 
The word " pander," and the sharp thrust backward, goaded 
Fitzurse to strike the first blow, and thereby brought 
England a step nearer to Magna Charta. 

1 The italicized words must have some force, but it is difficult to find, in 
"Come; as he said, thou art our prisoner." Also, while the single rebuff of 
Fitzurse, leading, as it does, to the Martyr's death, is dramatically necessary, the 
second rebuff (which the poet supposes Tracy to have received) makes the martyr- 
dom too much like a melee. Here Tennyson is misled by following Herbert. 



I. The different accounts 

[218] (i) (Grim) At this rebuff, the knight, all in a blaze 
of terrible fury, replied, " I owe you no fealty nor obedience 
against my loyalty to my lord the King." At the same 
time he brandished his sword [for a blow] against that 
consecrated head. So the Martyr, unconquered [to the last], 
discerned that the hour was imminent that was to end the 
miseries of mortality, and that the crown of immortality, 
prepared for him and promised by the Lord, was now close 
at hand. Accordingly, bending his neck as though for 
prayer, he joined together and raised his hands upward, 1 and 
commended his cause and the Church's cause to God and St. 

[218] (l) (Grim) Miles vero, pro repulsione, furore terribili totus incanduit, 
ensemque vibrans contra sacrum verticem, " Non fidem," ait, "non tibi subjec- 
tionem debeo contra fidelitatem domini mei regis." Cernens igitur martyr 
invictus horam imminere quae miserae mortalitati finem imponeret, paratam sibi 
et promissam a Domino coronam immortalitatis jam proximam fieri, inclinata in 
modum orantis cervice, junctis pariter et elevatis sursum manibus, 1 Deo et sanctae 

1 " Upward." This is the view taken by Grim, who was clasping him (Gamier) 
"from behind." Perhaps Robert of Merton, who seems to have inspired Anon. 
I., may have been a little in front, at this moment, where a spectator would have 
received the impression that he (Anon. I.) "covered his eyes with his hands." 
Or Grim's words might possibly mean " raising his folded hands in prayer " so as 
to be before his eyes, not, above his head. In that case, the two agree : and 
Anon. I. may be describing inferentially in one way the same fact that Grim 
describes inferentially in another. The latter says, in effect, " he raised his hands 
in prayer ;" the former, "he placed his hands before his eyes so as to cover them 
while he committed himself to God in the moment before death. " 


Mary, and the Martyr St. Denis. Scarcely had he uttered 
the words when the execrable knight, fearing lest he might 
be rescued by the people and escape alive, leapt suddenly on 
him, and, shearing away the top of the crown,' 2 consecrated 
to God by holy unction, wounded in the head the sacrificial 
lamb of God. The same stroke [almost] cut off the arm of 
the writer of this relation : for he, in the universal flight of 
monks and clerks, 3 steadfastly kept by the Archbishop, and 
held him fast, embracing him in his arms, until the very 
[arm] that he opposed to [the stroke] was [almost] cut off. 

[219] (2) (Fitzstephen) The monks, too, held him back. 
With them 4 there was also Master Edward Grim, and he, 
interposing his arm, received the first sword-stroke aimed 
by William de Traci at the Archbishop's head. This same 
stroke wounded the Archbishop on the head, slantwise, and 
Grim on the arm, severely . . . 

Mariae et beato martyri pionysio suam et ecclesiae causam commendavit. Vix 
verbum itnplevit, et metuens nefandus miles ne raperetur a populo et vivus 
evaderet, insiliit in eum subito, et summitate coronae, 2 quam sancti chrismatis 
unctio dicaverat Deo, abrasa, agnum Deo immolandum vulneravit in capite, 
eodem ictu praeciso brachio haec referentis. Is etenim, fugientibus tarn monachis 3 
quam clericis universis, sancto archiepiscopo constanter adhaesit, et inter ulnas 
complexum tenuit, donee ipsa quam opposuit praecisa est. 

[219] (2) (Fitzstephen) Et monachi eum retinebant : cumquibus 4 et magister 
Edwardus Grim, qui et primum a Willelmo de Traci in caput ejus vibratum 
gladii ictum brachio objecto excepit ; eodemque ictu et archiepiscopus in capite 
inclinato, et ipse in brachio graviter est vulneratus . . . 

'-' "Crown," see 224. Here the context makes it more easy to see that the 
meaning is " crown of the head." 

3 Contrast Fitzstephen's " et monachi eum retinebant." But we may perhaps 
partly reconcile the two by supposing that the monks kept their hold until now, 
and only fled when they saw Fitzurse advancing to strike the first blow. The 
Archbishop's "clerks" had fled before. If so, the meaning here is, "when all 
the monks fled, as they now did, and as the clerks had done some time before." 

4 This can hardly be exactly reconciled with GrSm's account. But Fitz- 
stephen's error may be one of omission. Grim was with the monks then. But 
he was not with them a moment or two afterwards, when they ran away. It is 
not clear whether Fitzstephen, by not again mentioning himself as present (as he 
did above), implies that, by this time, he himself had fled. If he had fled, -that 
might account for some error in what follows, which he possibly did not witness. 

S222 HIS DEATH 129 

[220] (3) (John) After these words, seeing his execu- 
tioners with their swords drawn, he bent his head as though 
for prayer, uttering these last words, " To God and St. Mary, 
and the Patron Saints of this church, and St. Denis, do I 
commend myself and the cause of the Church." The rest, 
who could tell without sighs, sobs, and tears ? Pity does 
not permit the enumeration of details one by one . . . 

[221] (4) (William) Saying these words, he stretched his 
head forward, adjusting it to the impending blow, sounding 
forth these as his last words, " To God and St. Mary, and 
the 5 Martyr Denis, and the Patron Saints of this church, I 
commend my spirit and the cause of the Church." But 
Fitzurse, hastening to snatch a trophy by striking the first 
stroke, and to gain his wages by hurrying to hell, leapt 
forward, and with all his force inflicted a wound on the out- 
stretched head, exclaiming, as though in triumph over a 
conquered enemy, " Strike ! Strike ! " 

[222] (5) (Benedict) And to another 6 wearing a hauberk, 

[220] (3) (John) His dictis, videns carnifices eductis gladiis, in modum orantis 
inclinavit caput, haec novissima proferens verba, "Deo et beatae Mariae, et 
sanctis hujus ecclesiae patronis, et beato Dionyslo commendo me ipsum et ecclesiae 
causam. " Caetera quis sine suspiriis, singultibus et lacrimis referat ? Singula 
prosequi pietas non permittit . . . 

[221] (4) (William) Dixit, caputque protensum ferientibus coaptavit, haec 
verba novissima psallens, " Deo et beatae Mariae, et 5 martyri Dionysio, 
patronisque hujus ecclesiae sanctis commendo spiritum meum et ecclesiae causam. " 
Accelerans autem Ursides de primo ictu referre tropaeum et de festina perditione 
sua lucrum, prosiliit, et toto conamine suo capiti protenso vulnus incussit, ex- 
clamavitque tanquam devicto hoste triumphans " Percutite, percutite." 

[222] (5) (Benedict) Et ad alium 6 loricatum, quern gladio nudato appro- 

5 William seems to copy John's version, but has dropped out "saint (beato) " 
before " Dionysio," by mistake. Perhaps, he thought that St. Denis, as being a 
martyr, ought to come before "the Patron Saints," and then felt that "beatae 
Mariae et beato Dionysio " sounded so badly that it was preferable to omit the 
second "beatus," supplying it from the first. " I commend my spirit" is a non- 
historical " improvement " on John's version, the former being more like Scripture, 
Luke xxiii. 46. 

6 - "Another," i.e. different from the knight that "struck off the cap." But 
William attributes that action to " Reginald." This section of Benedict's narra- 



whom he saw approaching him with a naked sword, he 
turned and said, " What is [this], Reginald ? I have bestowed 
many benefits on you ? And come you to me, into a church, 
in arms ? " In these words, did not the imitator of Christ 
seem to set forth an image of Christ, who said to the Jews 
"As against a robber have ye come out with swords and 
staves to seize me ? " 7 The King's knight, filled with a spirit 
of frenzy, replied, " You shall speedily know. You are a 
dead man." 

[223] (6) (Herbert) So, as we briefly signified above, 
as soon as this our bony 8 champion of Christ seized that one 
of those murderous knights whose name we gave above, (as 
we said above), and so mightily shook him off, the man 
lifted his sword on high, wrath adding to his strength, and 
aimed a heavy blow at the head of the Lord's Christ (or 
Anointed). But 9 he did not as yet receive on himself the 
full force of the blow. For a clerk, who had lately come to 

pinquare videbat, conversus dixit, " Quid est, Reginalde ? Multa tibi contuli 
beneficia ; et ad me in ecclesiam armatus accedis ? " Nonne his verbis videbatur 
imitator Christi Christum exprimere, ludaeis dicentem, " Tanquam ad latronem 
existis cum gladiis et fustibus comprehendere me ? " 7 Cui satelles spiritu furoris 
plenus, "Jam scies," inquit ; "mortuus es." 

[223] (6) (Herbert) Igitur, ut praetetigimus, mox ut ilium carnificum militum 
quern praenominavimus noster osseus s hie Christi athleta apprehendit, ut supra 
diximus, et tarn valide excussit, ipse gladium exaltans, ira vires augente, fortiter 
christi Domini caput percutere nisus est : quod 9 tamen necdum vim ictus in se 
excepit, clerico quodam, qui proxime ad videndum pontificem venerat, et eum de 

tive (if indeed it comes from his pen) seems to have been placed too late by the 
Quadrilogus. Perhaps it is really a modification of William's narrative (174). 
Note that in the words " Do you come armed against me ?" Benedict adds " into 
a church," which is omitted by William but inserted by Anon. X. 

[222#] Benedict, as reported by Quadrilogus, mentions no "first blow." Its 
place is taken by the " casting off" of " the cap." See 175, 273. 

7 Matth. xxvi. 55. 

8 In a digression of five pages, Herbert has likened St. Thomas to Samson 
(among others) conquering with the Jaw-done of an ass. 

9 " But he (quod)." I do not understand the construction, and have taken 
" quod " as though it were "qui." Herbert may have intended to write " But a 
certain clerk was the cause that (quod) he did not receive the blow," and may 
have strayed off into a different construction. 


see the Pontiff, and who " followed " near at hand " to see 
the end," 10 interposed his arm between the falling sword and 
the Pontiff's head ; and, by exposing to danger his arm of 
flesh so as to make of his own body a shield fitted to 
protect the Pontiff, he secured for himself the protection of 
salvation . . . and a participatory first-fruits of the coming 
sacrifice. That this man's name may be remembered with 
blessing, I here insert it. His own proper name, then, was 
Edward ; his surname, Grim ; he was born in the town in 
England called Cambridge. So this clerk, struck by the 
heavy stroke, sustained the first brunt (lit. weight) of the 
blow. But on feeling himself struck and unable to bear its 
full weight, he straightway drew back his arm, and the rest 
of the blow was received by the Pontiff's head. 

[224] (7) (Anon. I.) And Rainald u said, " I owe you 
neither faith nor homage against my fealty to the King." 
So Rainald, seeing that he could not be moved from the 
spot, and fearing lest he might be rescued by the people who 
had come together to hear vespers, drew near to smite him 
at last with sword unsheathed. So the holy man, seeing his 

prope sequebatur ut videret finem, 10 bracchium suum inter gladium venientem et 
pontificis caput interponente, et exponente bracchium suae carnis ut de se ipso 
vel sic aptaret pontifici scutum protectionis, protectionem salutis . . . et inchoatae 
jam immolationis primus primum participium habuit. Cujus memoria ut in 
benedictione sit, nomen hie intersero ; dictus videlicet nomine proprio Edwardus, 
cognomento Grim, castello illo in Anglia quod dicitur Cantebrige oriundus. 
Clericus itaque hie graviter caesus pondus ictus sustinere coepit. Verumtamen 
illo, cum se caesum sentiret et pondus ictus sustinere non posset, confestim 
bracchium retrahente, reliquum ictus in se pontificis caput excepit. 

[224] (7) (Anon. I.) Et Rainaldus 11 ait, " Nee fidem nee hominium tibi debeo 
contra fidelitatem regis. " Videns igitur Rainaldus quod a loco moveri non posset, 
timensque ne a populo, qui ad audiendas vesperas convenerat, eriperetur, evagi- 
nato gladio jam percussurus appropinquavit. Videns vero vir sanctus martyrium 

10 A contrast between Grim and Peter, who (Matth. xxvi. 58) "followed 
him afar off ... to see the end." 

11 [224] Grim has (170) " Reinalde." The dropping of the "g," dropped 
also by Gamier, no doubt, better represents the name as uttered by the Archbishop. 


martyrdom imminent, and his executioner now standing face 
to face with him, joined his hands and covered his eyes, and, 
stooping his head towards the executioner, said, " To God, 
and the blessed St. Denis, and the holy St. Elphege, I com- 
mend myself." On his saying this, Rainald approached, 
and struck him obliquely a strong blow on the head, and 
lopped off the top of his crown, 12 and cast down his cap. 
The sword glanced on to the left shoulder, and passed on, 
rending 13 all his garments, so as to leave the skin bare. 
But Master Edward, seeing the stroke imminent, threw his 
arm in front as if to protect him, and it was almost com- 
pletely cut off 

[225] (8; (Anon. II.) When therefore he was on the 
point of receiving the stroke of the sword, forth leapt one 
of the clerks, Edward by name, surnamed Grim. He as 
though rivalling St. Peter's confidence 14 in venturing to 

suum imminere, jamque cominus stare percussorem, junctis manibus operuit 
oculos suos, caputque inclinans percussori, dixit, "Deo et beato Dionysio 
sanctoque Elfego me commendo." Haec cum dixisset, accessit Rainaldus et 
percussit eum ex obliquo fortiter in capite, amputavitque summitatem coronae 12 
ejus, pileumque dejecit. Lapsus est ensis super laevam scapulam, insciditque 13 
omnia vestimenta illius usque ad nudum. Magister vero Edwardus, qui juxta 
virum Dei stabat, videns ictum imminere, jecit bracchium econtra quasi eum 
protecturus ; quod fere penitus abscissum est. 

[225] (8) (Anon. II.) Cum ergo percutiendus esset, prosiluit unus ex clericis, 
Edwardus nomine, cognomento Grim, ac velut aemulatus beati Petri fidentiam 14 

12 "Crown (coronae)," apparently used here, as by Grim (218), for "the 
crowfl of the head." The name was also given (Stanley, p. 284, App. II.) to 
the circle of hair left on a priest's head by the tonsure. Fitzstephen (Mat. iii. 
142) has, first, "corona capitis," and then (having thus defined it) "coronae," 
absolutely. See below (332). 

13 " Passed on, rending." " Inscindo " is not inserted by Lewis and Short. 
Gamier has "encisa." Forcellini gives it as = " scindo." Dufresne (ed. Favre) 
does not give the verb, but has " Inscindens-Ferrum, cognomen, Gall. Tranche 

14 i.e. "self-confidence." The author regards it as "not right." He ignores 
the fact that Grim did not draw a sword as Peter did, and did not even "shake 
off" any one ! 

226 HIS DEATH 133 

defend his Master wrapped his arm in his cloak and 
boldly interposed it to meet the uplifted swords, shouting 15 
to them to spare the Archbishop. 

[226] Though this venturesome act was dictated by 
affection, yet, as being wrong, it was prohibited by the 
Pontiff of Christ, and (as though mindful of that inhibition . . . 
" Put up thy sword, etc. . . .") " Cease, brother ! " said he ; 
" not such is the defence that the Lord would have." 16 But 
meanwhile the murderous knight did not spare the clerk, 
but, turning his rage first on him, almost cut through the 
middle 17 the arm interposed, and laid him low on the ground 
confounded by the force of the blow, like one bereft of life. 
. . . Well may we believe that a Divine Providence secured 
the clerk's escape, lest the holy man, who played the main 

ut magistrum defenderet, obvolutum pallio brachium levatis ensibus audenter 
objecit, ut Archiepiscopo suo parcerent clamans. 15 

[226] Cujus ausum, quamvis pium, tanquam tamen minus rectum prohibuit 
Christ! pontifex, et (velut illius cohibitionis memor . . . " Mitte gladium tuum 
etc. . . .") " Desine," inquit, " frater, non hanc defensionem vult Dominus." 16 
Interim autem clerico miles funestus non pepercit, sed in eum primo desaeviens, 
brachium quod objecerat fere per medium 17 gladio secuit, et ex ictus vehementia 
perturbatum velut exanimem solo stravit. . . . Sane vero creditur divinitus pro- 

15 " Shouting." Gamier alone mentions this. 

16 This "leaping forward," and the "folding of the cloak round the arm," 
and the "calling" to the knights to spare the Archbishop, and the Archbishop's 
words " Cease, brother," are all (with the exception of the expostulations, inserted 
by Gamier) traits peculiar to this writer ; who records a great deal more about 
Grim than Grim himself does, (i) Grim could not "leap forward," for he could 
not afford to let go his hold from behind : (2) there was no use in shouting, 
and he needed all his breath for what the Saga calls "the tug": (3) as he 
was holding the Archbishop round the waist with his two arms, there was no 
time, or means, for taking off his cloak and wrapping it round one arm. 

It is astonishing that Stanley and Tennyson should have been influenced by 
such a sensational unveracious writer as this. St. Thomas's rebuke to Grim is a 
fiction of cold-blooded, mendacious, and ungrateful ecclesiasticism. 

17 ' ' Almost . . . through the middle " perhaps means ' ' almost through the 
bone." The order of the words forbids us to render "per medium" by "inter- 
posed. " The writer gives an entirely false impression, as if the knight, failing to 
strike the Archbishop, deliberately turned against Grim. 


part in this martyr's agony, should be bereft of his due glory, 
and lest the perversity of the evil-minded should impute the 
mighty miracles that followed to the merits, not of the 
Master, but of the disciple alone. 

[227] (9) (Anon. IV.) Then one of them stretched 
out his sword, and brandishing it over the Archbishop's 
head, almost cut off the arm of a certain clerk that 
stood by, and, at the same time, wounded the Lord's 
Christ (or Anointed) himself in the head. For the said 
clerk had stretched out his arm above the head of his 
[spiritual] Father, to receive, or rather ward off, 18 the 

(10) (Anon. V.) Then, inclining his head, full of the 
spirit of confession, he received the first stroke of death, 
and rendered his soul to God, while his body fell lifeless 
to the earth. But the first of the torturers cut off the top 19 
of his head. 

[228] (n) (Anon. X.) Then one of the above men- 
tioned sons of Leviathan, raising a sword [that] he was 
holding, almost lopped off the arm of the aforesaid clerk, 
and by the same stroke smote on the head the sacrificial 

curatum ut evaderet, ne laudis debitae gloria vir sanctus, cujus principaliter agon 
erat, fraudaretur, solisque discipuli meritis virtutes miraculorum secutas malevo- 
lorum perversitas deputaret. 

[227] (9) (Anon. IV.) Cumque unus ex iis extendens vibraret gladium in 
caput archiepiscopi, brachium cujusdam qui adstabat clerici fere abscidit, et ipsum 
pariter in capite vulneravit christum Domini. Extenderat enim idem clericus 
brachium suum super caput patris, ut ferientis acciperet, vel potius illideret 
(? elideret) 18 ictum. 

(10) (Anon. V.) Dehinc inclinato capite, plenus confessione, primum mortis 
ictum excepit, animamque Deo reddidit ; corpus vero exanime ad terrain concidit. 
Primus vero tortorum verticem 19 capitis ei praecidit ; 

[228] (n) (Anon. X.) Tune quidam ex praefatis filiis Leviathan, elevato 
gladio [quem] tenebat, clerici praedicti brachium fere amputavit ; eodemque 

18 Ward off (elideret) " should probably be read for " illideret." 

19 "Verticem" is also used by William (and without "caput") for "the 
crown " (324). No other writer says that the Martyr fell at the first blow. 

231 HIS DEATH 135 

Lamb of God, 20 destroying his own [spiritual] Father in the 
womb of his Mother. 21 

[229] (12) (Gamier) Now sees St. Thomas well his 
martyrdom at hand. His hands placed to his face, he 
renders himself to God's doom, To the martyr St. Denis, to 
whom sweet France belongs, And to the saints of the 
Church he commends himself at once, The cause of Holy 
Church and his own likewise. 

[230] William came foremost ; no will has he to 
pray to God : To be lighter for action he will carry no 
hauberk ; "The traitor to the king" he begins to demand. 2 ' 
When they could not cast the Saint outside the Minster, 
Within it, he proceeded to give him a mighty blow upon 
his head ; 

[231] So that it carried away the top of the crown 
thereof, And struck down the scalp ^ and greatly gashed 
it. The sword glanced thence on to his left shoulder, 
Sheared off his mantle and his clothes even to the skin, 
And cut Edward's arm almost in two. 

ictu agnum Deo immolandum 20 in capite percussit, patrem proprium in matris 
utero 21 perimens. 

[229] Or veil bien saint Thomas sun martire Le traitur le Rei commence a demander. 22 

en present. Quant ne porent le saint hors del muster geter, 

Les mains mist a sun vis, a Dampnedeu se rent, Enz el chief de 1'espee grant cop li va doner ; 
Al martir saint Denis, cui dulce France apent, [231] Si ke de la corone le cupel en porta, 

E as sainz de 1'Yglise se commande erraument, Et la hure 23 abati et granment entama. 
La cause seinte Yglise et la sue ensement. Sur 1'espaulle senestre l'espe li cola, 

[230] Willames vint avant, ne volt Deu aorer. Le mantel et les dras tres k'al quir encisa, 
Pur estre plus legiers, n'i volt hauberc porter. E le braz Edward pres tut en dous colpa. 

11. 5486-5500. 

20 "Sacrificial Lamb of God," from Grim (218). 

21 [228] " In the womb of his mother " means (294) " in the church." So 
Herbert (Mat. iii. 510) "patrem suum in ipso matris suae utero decalvantes. " 

22 This and the two previous lines seem out of place, belonging rather to the 
entrance into the Cathedral than to the present moment. LI. 5491-5500 look 
like a short summary that has found its way into the text from a first draft. 

23 "Hure" is (Godefroy) "poil qui couvre la tete, et tete d'homme ou de 
bete." A comparison of Gamier with Anon. I. shews that they agree exactly, 
except that the latter substitutes "cap (pileum)" for "scalp." Did Gamier 
mistake "chapel" meaning "head-gear" for "chapel" meaning "skull" or 
" head " (253) ? A friend suggests that " pileus " may be an error, from " poil." 


[232] (13) (The Saga) Now that the man of God, 
Archbishop Thomas, seeth that his life-day is waning for 
his enemies shake their swords over his head he turneth 
to the east, towards that altar of our Lady, God's Mother, 
which was nearest to him, and whereat he had stood in 
those steps of the Holy Ghost which we mentioned before. 
He bendeth down on both knees before the altar 24 with 
these, the last words that could be heard through the loud 
noise of God's enemies, saying, " Into the hands of Almighty 
God and of His most blessed Mother, the holy Mary, and 
of the Patrons of this church, the holy Dionysius, and all 
Saints, I commit myself and the cause of the Church." 

[233] Next to this, spring forward the wild wolves on 
the gentle herd ; the degenerate sons, on their own father ; 
the cruellest murderers, upon the innocent victim of Jesus 
Christ. First among them, William of Traci dealeth a blow 
to the Archbishop, aiming at his head : but inasmuch as 
the clerk Edward standeth in dauntless faith nearest to his 
lord in this war-storm, the blow falleth on the arm of him, 
cutting it nearly through, and then on the head of the 
Archbishop, who received the less of it that the clerk had 
taken off the greater weight of the wound. 

[234] (i.) (Stanley, pp. 91-2) Fitzurse, glowing all 
over with rage, retorted " I owe you no fealty or homage, 
contrary to my fealty to the King," and waving the sword 
over his head, cried " Strike, strike ! " (" Ferez, ferez "), but 
merely dashed off his cap. 


24 "Before the altar." See 62, for another instance of the Saga's sacrifice of 
fact to fitness. 

25 "Merely dashed off his cap." The Archbishop at this stage appears to 
have stood quite still ; and it is extremely unlikely that Fitzurse would miss 
his aim and "merely dash off his cap," unless Grim's arm intervened. More- 
over, if it was a down stroke, and not a merely terrifying feint, it could hardly 
strike off his " cap " without doing something more. Lastly, it seems odd that 
a knight who has missed his aim should call on the others to strike, till he has 
himself struck. William and Gamier both agree in making the words "Strike ! 
Strike ! " proceed from some one who has himself struck an effective blow first. 

239 HIS DEATH 137 

[235] The Archbishop covered his eyes with his joined 
hands, bent his neck, and said, " I commend my cause and 
the cause of the Church to God, to St. Denys the martyr 
of France, to St. Alfege, and to the saints of the Church^ 

[236] Meanwhile Tracy, who, since his fall, had thrown 
off his hauberk to move more easily, sprang forward, and 
struck a more decided blow. 27 

[237] Grim, who up to this moment had his arm round 
Becket, threw it up, wrapped in a cloak, to intercept the 
blade, Becket exclaiming, " Spare this defence'' 2 

[238] The sword lighted on the arm of the monk, which 
fell wounded or broken ; and he fled disabled to the nearest 
altar, probably that of St. Benedict within the chapel. 

[239] It is a proof of the confusion of the scene, that 
Grim the receiver of the blow, as well as most of the 
narrators, believed it to have been dealt by Fitzurse, while 
Tracy, who is known to have been the man from his subsequent 
boast, believed that the monk whom he had wounded was 
John of Salisbury. 29 

26 "The saints of the Church." More probably, "of this church," i.e. St. 
Elphege and others, the special patron saints of Canterbury Cathedral (255-7-) 

27 " Since his fall." It has been shewn above that probably only Fitzurse, 
and not Tracy, had been rebuffed. But in any case, there was hardly time 
between the rebuff and the stroke to take off the hauberk. Gamier (1. 5491), 
to whom Stanley refers for the statement, says that Tracy " would not wear a 
hauberk, in order to be lighter " ; but he places this before the call for the 
"traitor," and before the endeavour to drag the Archbishop from the Cathedral. 
It may have been taken off, in order to facilitate the attempt to place the 
Archbishop upon Tracy's shoulders ; but Gamier gives the impression that Tracy 
entered the Cathedral with his hauberk off, and that this was the reason for 
his being "in front," because he was "lighter." See, however, 247- 

28 The only authority for these statements is Anon II., a worthless and 
unveracious writer, who inserts what never happened in order to draw an 
absurd comparison between St. Peter actively smiting with the sword and 
Edward Grim passively interposing his arm ! 

29 "Tracy, who is known to have been the man." William (321), who 
is the writer that records Tracy's boast about wounding John, merely says that 
they conjectured, from this boast, that he was the man who had wounded Grim. 
Against such vague hearsay evidence, we have the evidence of Grim as an ear- 
witness, as well as eye-witness. If the knights were in full armour, he might 


[240] The spent force of the stroke descended on 
Becket's head, grazed the crown, and finally rested on his 
left shoulder, cutting through the clothes and sfa'n. 30 
[241] (ii.) (Tennyson) 
FITZURSE (advances with drawn sword}. I told thee that I 

should remember thee ! 
BECKET. Profligate pander ! 
FITZURSE. Do you hear that ? Strike, strike. 

[Strikes off the ARCHBISHOP'S mitre, and 

wounds him in the forehead. 

[242] BECKET (covers his eyes with his hand}. I do commend 

my cause to God, the Virgin, 
St. Denis of France and St. Alphege of England, 
And all the tutelar saints of Canterbury. 

[GRIM wraps his arms about the ARCHBISHOP. 
Spare this defence, dear brother. 

[TRACY has arisen, and approaches, hesitatingly, 
with his sword raised. 

FITZURSE. Strike him, Tracy ! 

ROSAMUND (rushing down steps from the choir). No, No, No, No ! 
FITZURSE. This wanton here. De Morville, 

Hold her away. 

DE MORVILLE. I hold her. 

ROSAMUND (held back by DE MORVILLE, and stretching out her 

arms}. Mercy, mercy, 

As you would hope for mercy. 

FITZURSE. Strike, I say. 

not have known Fitzurse by sight; but he heard the Archbishop call him by 
name (" Reinalde"), and thrust him back, and then saw the same knight, after 
being thrust back, rush on vindictively to inflict the first stroke, by which his own 
arm was almost severed. Grim's evidence is worth twenty hearsay reports 
about confessions, or boasts, of Tracy's. 

30 "Skin." Hardly "cut through the clothes and skin." Nor does the 
blow seem to have " rested on the left shoulder." The sword "glided" (Gamier 
" cola," Anon. I. " lapsus est ") " on," or " over," the left shoulder, then it " cut 
into," or "rent downwards or onwards " (Gamier " encisa," Anon, "inscidit") 
his garments, "down to the skin (ad nudum)," but apparently not so as to "cut 
through " the " skin." If it had, the wound would probably have been mentioned 
later on in the enumeration of the Martyr's wounds. Probably the sword sheared 
off the clothes on the left shoulder and side. 


[243] GRIM. O God, O noble knights, O sacrilege / 
Strike our Archbishop in his own cathedral! 
The Pope, the King will curse you the whole world 
Abhor you ; ye will die the death of dogs ! 
Nay, nay, good Tracy. \Lifts his arm. 

FITZURSE. Answer not, but strike. 

2. Who struck the first blow? 

[244] There is a discrepancy as to the name of the 
knight that struck the first blow. Grim says that it was 
the knight that had been just irritated by his rebuff, whom 
the Archbishop had addressed as " Reinald." Anon I., 
who surpasses the rest in clearness as well as in vivid 
brevity says distinctly that it was "Rainald." William 
also, in the present passage (but see below, 321), speaks of 
Fitzurse as the striker, and as " desiring to gain a trophy 
from the first blow? On the other hand, Fitzstephen says 
that it was Tracy ; and Herbert, after mentioning Tracy 
as the man whom the Archbishop shook off, now declares 
that it was " the above-named " that aimed the first blow, 
which almost severed Grim's arm, and wounded the Arch- 
bishop's head. 

William appears to be inconsistent with himself. For, 
whereas he here represents Reginald as striking the first blow, 
and makes no mention of Grim, he says, later on, that (i) 
Grim did not know who had wounded him, but (2) "we 
conjecture " the name " from the fact that William de 
Tracy afterwards boasted of having cut off John of 
Salisbury's arm." If Grim's narrative is genuine, the first 
of these two statements is false. The second is a mere 
conjecture, based on hearsay. 

[245] The discrepancy may possibly in part be 
explained by the fact that those writers who described 
Fitzurse as simply striking off the Archbishop's cap, were 
near the altar of Benedict, on his right, where they could 


not perceive that the sword, besides striking off the Arch- 
bishop's cap, really inflicted a wound on the left side of his 
head. That this was the fact, is clearly stated by Anon. I. : 
" As he said this, Rainald came up and struck a heavy blow 
sideways on his head, and sheared off the top of his crown 
and cast down his cap. The sword glanced on the left 
shoulder, and passed on into his vestments, rending them 
even to the skin." * It is scarcely possible to doubt that 
these clear details are a statement of what actually occurred. 
[246] Fitzstephen, who has told us that the visors of 
the knights were down? might well be unable to recognize 
them ; and it will be observed that up to this point he 
does not attempt to distinguish them by name : it is 
" quidam," " aliquis," " aliquis," " unus grassator," " aliquis," 
" quidam." Possibly, therefore, Fitzstephen may here be 
recording what had been " conjectured " (as William tells 
us) from the report of Tracy's boast. A much surer guide 
would be the Archbishop's " Reinald " addressed to Fitzurse, 
audible to Grim, and certain not to have been invented by him. 
Fitzstephen's omission of " Reginald," in any words uttered 
by the Archbishop, suggests that he was by no means so 
close to the Archbishop as Grim was. It may be added 
that, if Fitzstephen was at some distance, and saw the Arch- 
bishop's " cap " fall off and the sword glance from his head to 
his shoulder, while he stood erect, he might mistake this 
for " a blow with the flat of the sword on the shoulder" To 

1 "Passed on into . . . rending," an attempt to render "inscindens." Did 
Garnier ("encisa") take "inscindens" as "incidens"? The fragments of 
Benedict's narrative, after describing the cap struck off with the edge of the 
sword, speak of the Archbishop as "awaiting a second blow." If, therefore, we 
had the whole of Benedict's narrative, we might find that he agreed with Grim 
and Anon. I. in regarding the stroke that struck off the cap as a real blow and 
not as a feint. 

2 Ancient pictures may be quite untrustworthy. The one given in Knight's 
Pictorial History, vol. i. p. 456, from a painting hung at the tomb of Henry 
IV., represents the murder as taking place before the altar, where it did not 
take place : and the murderers have visors up and surcoats on. 



him, then, the first real blow would seem to be the one that 
followed, which was inflicted by Tracy. 

3. Gamier 's testimony 

[247] Gamier, it must be admitted, distinctly affirms 
that the striker was Tracy. But, in a point of this kind, 
his evidence is not on the same footing as that of an eye- 
witness. His narrative shews that he had taken great pains 
to piece together evidence that could hardly harmonize, and, 
with all his pains, he has left traces of failure. It has been 
shewn above that his introduction of Tracy, here, reads as 
though he were describing the knight's first entrance into 
the Cathedral, when they called out for the " traitor " : 

" William came in front, he had no will to pray to God, 
In order to be the lighter, he would not carry a hauberk. 
He begins to call for the traitor to the King. 
When they could not cast the Saint out of the Minster, 
He proceeded to give him a great blow on the head." 

All this seems quite out of place. 

[248] Again, Gamier omits all mention of the striking 
off of the " cap." He also represents Tracy, and not Fitz- 
urse, as saying " Strike ! strike ! " And that his evidence 
was based on Tracy's boast he confesses almost in the same 
words (287) as William uses. At the beginning of his 
description of the entry of the knights into the Cathedral, 
he says that they wore hauberks, and this is the unanimous 
testimony of those who describe their arms at all. Not a 
single writer says that Tracy was an exception. Yet, later 
on (288), Gamier describes the " green coat and variegated 
cloak " of Tracy, and says that he was " well known by sight 
and voice." Contrast this (i) with the silence of all the 
rest, (2) with the express statement of Fitzstephen that the 
knights were in full armour, " covered except for the eyes," 
and (3) with the fact that even William, when trying to 


shew that Tracy was the striker, merely puts forward his 
view as a " conjecture," based on Tracy's confession, and 
says nothing about any tokens by which he could be 

[249] Lastly, add (4) the fact that the tendency exhibited 
by pictures in early times was to discard the monotony of four 
visored knights in complete panoply by diversifying them in 
various ways. Thus, in one of the earliest perhaps, as Stanley 
suggests, painted about February II/3 1 Fitzurse and 
Tracy have coats of mail up to their eyes, but Morville is 
without helmet or armour. In another, painted on a board 
at the head of the tomb of Henry IV., Bret has boars' heads 
on his surcoat, and Fitzurse bears : Tracy also has what (in 
the engravings) appears to be a mantle over his surcoat. 
The faces of all are clearly visible. 

[250] All these considerations lead to the conclusion 
that, when Gamier came to Canterbury in 1172, he found 
existing already some difference of opinion as to the cir- 
cumstances of the first blow inflicted on St. Thomas. In 
his poem, as well as in William's narrative, there are in- 
dications of a tendency to combine parts of one tradition, 
which assigned the first blow, rightly, to Fitzurse, with. parts 
of another, which assigned it, wrongly, to Tracy. If Fitzurse's 
blow left the Archbishop standing still erect, it is quite 
possible that Tracy who struck the second and third blows 
and brought the Martyr to the ground may have himself 
believed, and may have said in confession, that the first 
blow was his. 

[251] If Grim was thrown to the ground by the shock 
of Fitzurse's blow, and had not time to arise from the 
ground before Tracy struck, it was quite natural that Tracy, 

1 Stanley, p. 113 "A much more faithful representation is given in an 
illuminated Psalter in the British Museum (Harl. 1502), undoubtedly of the 
period, and, as Becket is depicted without the nimbus, probably soon after, if 
not before, the canonization." See frontispiece. 

253 HIS DEATH 143 

in the excitement of the moment, should suppose Grim's 
fall (as well as the Archbishop's) was due to his sword ; 
and so, returning that night to Saltwood, he might boast 
that he had " cut off the arm of Becket's faithful companion 
of course, John of Salisbury." Thus Tracy would natu- 
rally originate a second error. 

[252] As regards Garnier's omission of " the striking 
off of the cap," the question cannot be satisfactorily settled 
till some one gives us a full analytic comparison of the 
Latin of Anon. I. and the French of Gamier, so as to shew 
whether, either borrowed directly from the other, or from 
some original of the other. 2 Meantime, there are two 
reasonable explanations. (i) He may have omitted it 
because nothing came of the act, and because it was difficult 
to gather whether it was the result of a feint to terrify, or of 
a blow intended to kill. (2) The early picture (of 1173) 
above described is said by Stanley to represent St. Thomas's 
" grey cap dropping to the ground," but in the picture at 
the tomb of Henry IV. according to Stanley again "on 
the ground lies the bloody scalp, or cap, it is difficult to 
determine which? 

[253] If that is so in the second picture, may it not 
have been so in other and earlier pictures ? A " grey cap " 
does not lend itself to picturesque martyrology. If it was 
to be retained at all, the most poetic shape for it was that 
given in the Saga, " his mitre." But might it not be no 
" cap " or " mitre " at all, but the scalp shorn off with a 
small portion of the skull ? 3 If the French original of 

2 Gamier, for example, may have borrowed from some French early original 
draft of Anon. I. And it is quite possible that, in some passages, Gamier may 
have rendered the meaning of the original correctly, and the Latin translator 
incorrectly. Thus where Anon. I. describes Becket as "tutus et capucciatus 
(safe and hooded)," Gamier (1. 217) may be right in his "tut enchaperunez 
(wholly hooded)." See 250. 

3 This represents what Gamier may have thought, but not the fact. The 
fact was that the scalp remained attached to the head, so that it could not fall to 
the ground. 


Anon. I. described the " cap " as " chapel," might not 
" chapel " be there used in its sense of " dome of the skull," 
i.e., as Gamier calls it here, "cupule," but later on (292a) 
" chapel " ? 

[254] On the whole, it is probable that Gamier is here 
wrong, and that Anon. I. represents the truth. The " cap " 
was struck off, and a portion of the skull was shaved off at 
the same time. Grim, falling to the ground with his arm 
nearly broken, and perhaps stunned by the shock, noticed 
nothing except that the Archbishop (thanks to him) still 
stood erect. Robert of Merton perhaps or whoever else 
inspired Anon. I. standing a little behind Grim, and having 
opportunity for seeing, records what he saw, and records it 
for this reason, that some, from a greater distance, thought 
the falling of the cap was caused by a feint of Fitzurse. It 
was not so. It was the accompaniment of the first wound, 
which had been intended to be fatal. 

4. The Archbishops words 

[255] In Grim's narrative, St. Thomas commends 
himself "to God, and St. Mary (sanctae Mariae), and the 
blessed Martyr Denis (Dionysius)." Anon. I. omits " St. 
Mary," and adds "St. Elphege." Gamier has, "To the 
doom of God, to the Martyr St. Denis to whom sweet 
France belongs, and to the Saints of the Church," where 
there is nothing to shew that " the Saints " are the Patron 
Saints of the Cathedral. 

[256] In favour of the insertion of " St. Elphege " is 
Fitzstephen's statement that, at an earlier point in the 
narrative, " he commended himself to the Lord, and used 
the names of the holy archbishops and martyrs St. Denis 
and St. Elphege." l Perhaps the commendation included 

1 This was just after (171) the " blow on the shoulders with the flat of 
the sword," which has been shewn to be probably a confused representation 

257 HIS DEATH 145 

all these. St. Thomas was, from his youth, devoted to St. 
Mary, and could hardly have omitted her name. But 
Fitzstephen mentions an earlier commendation, at the 
moment when he received the threat of death : " I receive 
death in the name of the Lord, and I commend my soul 
and the cause of the Church to God and the blessed Mary 
and the holy patrons of the Church " (here closely agreeing 
with John of Salisbury). If the Archbishop had quite 
recently mentioned the name of the Virgin, it is conceivable 
that afterwards the names of the Martyr St. Denis, and the 
English Archbishop and Martyr, St. Elphege, may have 
come to his lips, next to the name of God. 

[257] Herbert of Bosham, though omitting St. Elphege, 
mentions " the sainted Advocates (advocatis) of the Church 
of Canterbury and the blessed Dionysius, apostle of the 
Franks." Antecedently, it seems probable that Anon. I. 
and Fitzstephen are right, and that the English-born Martyr 
did mention the earlier English martyr St. Elphege, whose 
outlandish name some may have concealed under the term 
" patronis," or " advocatis, Cantuariensis ecclesiae." 

The only difficulty is, to explain why the name was 
omitted by Grim, who was " English by birth." Could it 
be that Grim was sensitive to the fact that French readers 
would not know who St. Elphege was ? Above (44), Grim 
describes the Archbishop as mentioning that saint in his 
Christmas sermon " as is asserted." 

Herbert's " apostle of the Franks " and Garnier's " to 
whom sweet France belongs " are, of course, the explanatory 
comments of the writers, not the words of the Martyr. It 
is possible that Anon. I. may have inserted " St. Elphege " 
as representing the spirit of St. Thomas's words, as much as 
to say, " He did not mean all the saints of Holy Church, 

of Fitzurse's first blow that "glided on the shoulder." Hence the words are 
probably placed too early by Fitzstephen, and ought to come here. 



he meant the Patron Saints of the Minster, and especially 
the Martyr Archbishop, St. Elphege." 

5. Stanley and Tennyson 

[258] (i.) Stanley appears to have been misled by 
attaching too much importance to the evidence of William's 
Appendix, 1 and of the latest of all the authoritative writers, 
Herbert and that, though the latter warns us that his 
authority is simply the confession of Tracy. Herbert's 
knowledge of this may have been derived from mere hear- 
say : and Stanley himself has convincingly shewn that such 
a cloud of legend enveloped the history of the four knights 
within a very few years from the murder, that any tradition 
about what they said or did especially in so late a writer 
as Herbert must be regarded with very great suspicion. 

[259] The consequences of assigning the first blow to 
Tracy are these. We must then suppose that Fitzurse's 
intended blow was a failure, and that it merely dashed off 
" the cap," although it was meant to kill. What followed 
then ? A pause, during which Fitzurse does nothing, but 
calls " Strike ! strike ! " Meanwhile the Archbishop has 
time to commend himself to God. But could the commenda- 
tion have been heard while a bloodthirsty knight was 
shouting at the top of his voice " Strike ! strike ! " almost 
over the head of the commender? And what were the 
other knights doing? It is supposed by Stanley that Tracy 
" since his fall, had thrown off his hauberk " ; and it may be 
alleged that he was rising and disencumbering himself while 
the Martyr was praying and Fitzurse shouting. But we 
have shewn above that Tracy did not u fall." It is expressly 
said, by those who describe his rebuff, that he " almost fell," 
and a man does not take long to recover from " almost 
falling." Probably he was not even " rebuffed." And that 

1 See 320-4. 

262 HIS DEATH 147 

he took off his hauberk now (if at any time) is attested by 
no evidence, and is highly improbable. 

[260] Beside these consequences, we have to suppose, 
according to Stanley, that Grim was wrong in saying that 
his arm was wounded by the " Reinald " whom he heard 
addressed by the Archbishop, and that the most accurate of 
all our writers (Anon. I.) is wrong in his exact description 
of Fitzurse's blow as striking off the cap, wounding the head, 
shearing off the clothes, and almost breaking Grim's arm. 

[261] (ii.) Tennyson represents the Archbishop as utter- 
ing his commendation of his cause to God and the Saints 
after he has received his first wound from Fitzurse. This, 
beside going against all the best authorities, seems im- 
probable in itself. After a blow that had removed a portion 
of his skull, it might be possible for the Archbishop, physic- 
ally, still to stand erect, and even to repeat a few familiar 
words in a low tone, but it seems unlikely that he could 
utter a prayer mentioning a number of names, and requiring 
some faculty of mind and memory. Moreover, would he 
have had time for it ? In order to give him time, Tennyson, 
like Stanley, represents Tracy as actually thrown on the 
ground (which was not the fact according to any accounts), 
and as " rising and approaching hesitatingly " ; and in the 
meantime, during the minute or two that elapse while no 
blow is struck, we have to suppose the infuriated Fitzurse, 
after tasting blood, to be doing nothing ! Surely Tracy, or 
some one else, would rush in at once after Fitzurse's in- 
effectual blow. The work was one of hot blood and speed, 
when it had once begun. 

[262] Moreover, the acts and words of Grim, in Tenny- 
son's drama, are not suited to the real circumstances. Grim 
certainly " wrapped his arms about the Archbishop " : but 
that took place before, when the knights were trying to drag 
him out of the Cathedral. Grim probably kept his arms 
wrapped round him till he saw Fitzurse's sword descending 


on the Martyr's head. Then he unwrapped them, or one of 
them, and raised it to avert the stroke. But according to 
the drama, what was Grim doing when Fitzurse struck ? 
Seemingly nothing. He " wraps his arms round him " after 
the stroke, when there is no use in it. Grim is behind, not 
before, so that there is no "defence" in the act. Yet the 
Martyr is supposed to address him in the words " Spare this 
defence, dear brother " ! In the untrustworthy narrative (226) 
from which these words are taken, the word " defence " had, 
at all events, some meaning, since it referred to the previously 
described uplifting and interposition of Grim's arm ; but in 
the drama, coming before that uplifting and interposition, the 
word has no meaning at all. 

[263] To represent Grim, at this crisis, as telling the 
knights that they were committing sacrilege, is justified by 
Gamier ; and that other untrustworthy writer just mentioned 
describes Grim as expostulating. But does not this make 
Grim talk unnecessarily when a man of action would not 
talk at all ? Even if he must talk, ought he to be condemned 
to say that " the King " (about whom what could the poor 
clerk from Cambridge know ?) would " curse " them ? And 
ought he to call Tracy " good " ? Was he likely to know 
Tracy ? Even if he did, how could he discern him if in 
armour ? And again, if he did, would a clerk exasperate a 
King's knight by accosting him in that familiar style ? 
Surely, he would (as in Gamier) address all the knights 
collectively ; or if he addressed any one of them singly by 
any appellation, it would have been " my lord." 

As for the introduction of Rosamund, that, of course, is 
a purely dramatic question. But to many it will seem that 
the scene is one for men alone, and that she is even more 
out of place than Calphurnia at the foot of Pompey's statue 
when "great Caesar fell." 



I. The different accounts 

[264] (i) (Grim) . . . Afterwards, on receiving 
another blow on the head, even then he still remained im- 
movable. But on being struck a third time, the Martyr 
bent his knees and arms, in the act of offering himself as a 
living victim, saying in a low voice : " For the name of 
Jesus and the protection of the Church I am prepared to 
embrace death." But a third knight, 1 when he had thus 2 
fallen, 3 inflicted a severe wound on him, and, in the stroke, 
not only dashed his sword against the stone [pavement], but 
also separated the crown, which was [unusually] large, in 
such a way from the head that the blood, whitening from 
the brain, and the brain no less reddening from the blood, 
empurpled the face with the colours at once of the lily and 

[264] (i) (Grim) Deinde, alio ictu in capita recepto, adhuc quoqiie permansit 
immobilis. Tertio vero percussus, martyr genua flexit et cubitos, seipsum hostiam 
viventem offerendo, dicens summissa voce, " Pro nomine Jesu et ecclesiae tuitione 
mortem amplecti paratus sum." At tertius miles 1 ita 2 procumbenti 3 grave 
vulnus inflixit, quo ictu et gladium collisit lapidi, et coronam, quae ampla fuit, ita 
a capita separavit ut sanguis albens ex cerebro, cerebrum nihilominus rubens ex 

1 "A third knight": this is Brito. The two strokes described before 
("alio," "tertio") were inflicted by Tracy. Grim would naturally know none 
of the four names except the one that he heard (" Reinalde ") from the Archbishop 
addressing the striker of the first blow. 

2 Instead of " ita ... ut " with subjunctive, the writer uses " ita ... quo 
ictu " with indicative : but it has been taken differently by Anon. X. (285). 

3 " Procumbenti " ought to mean " while falling," but it probably means 
" when he had fallen," as it certainly does later on (2700)- If ne had not fallen, 
the sword could not so easily have been broken against the pavement. 


the rose, [the colours] of the Church as Virgin and as Mother, 
[the colours that represent] the life and the death 4 of a 
Confessor and a Martyr. 

[265] A fourth knight kept off those who pressed 
thronging in, in order that the rest might with more freedom 
and licence perpetrate the murder. But a fifth (no knight, 
he, but that clerk who had entered with the knights) to the 
intent that a fifth wound [like Christ's] might not be wanting 
to one who in other points had imitated Christ placed his 
foot on the neck of the holy Priest and precious Martyr, and 
(horrible to relate !) scattered the brains and blood about the 
pavement, exclaiming to the rest, " Let us go hence, knights. 
This fellow will not rise again any more." 

[266] (2) (Fitzstephen) The Archbishop, wiping off 
with his arm, and beholding, the blood that streamed from his 
head, 5 gave thanks to God, saying, " Into thy hands, O Lord, 
I commend my spirit." 

sanguine, lilii et rosae coloribus virginis et matris ecclesiae faciem confessoris et 
martyris vita et morte 4 purpuraret. 

[265] Quartus miles supervenientes abegit, ut caeteri liberius ac licentius 
homitidium perpetrarent. Quintus vero, non miles, sed clericus ille qui cum 
militibus intraverat, ne martyri quinta plaga deesset, qui in aliis Christum fuerat 
imitatus, posito pede super collum sancti sacerdotis et martyris pretiosi (horrendum 
dictu), cerebrum cum sanguine per pavimentum spargens, caeteris exclamavit, 
" Abeamus hinc, milites, iste ulterius non resurget." 

[266] (2) (Fitzstephen) Archiepiscopus a capite defluum cum brachio 
detergens et videns cruorem, 5 gratias Deo agebat, dicens, " In manus tuas, 
Domine, commendo spiritum meum." 6 

4 It seems to have been a tradition with writers of the " Passion of St. 
Thomas " to liken the white and red to the white of an innocent life and the 
purple of a martyr's death, so that "vita et morte" probably means "with life 
and death [as it were, represented by their colours, white and red] " (331, 334). 

6 "Cum" appears to be used for "with" signifying instrumentality (as 
perhaps also at the end of this passage " cum mucrone "). The author can 
hardly mean "flowing from his head together with his [left] arm," for he has 
made no mention of the "arm " as being wounded, and he says, a little later, 
that all the wounds were on the head. " And beholding " seems to mean " and 
beholding [from the stains on his sleeve, what a copious stream it was] " : that is 
to say, "beholding that it was the prelude to death." 

6 "Lord, etc." These are the words (from Ps. xxxi. 5) assigned by Luke 

269 HIS DEATH 151 

[267] A second stroke was dealt on his head, whereat 
also he fell flat on his face, first having knelt, clasping and 
stretching out his hands to God, near an altar, which was 
there, belonging to Saint Benedict. And he took pains, or 
[rather received] grace, that he might fall in honourable 
fashion, 7 covering himself down to the ancles with his pallium, 
as though to adore and pray. He fell on the right, on his 
way to God's right hand. 

[268] When he was fallen (or " falling "), s Richard Brito 
struck him with such force that even the sword was broken 
against his head and against the pavement of the church : 
" Take this," said he, " for love of my lord, William, the 
King's brother. . . ." 9 

[269] Four 10 wounds, in all, had the holy Archbishop, 
all in the head : and the whole of the crown of his head 
was lopped away. Then might we see how his limbs did 

[267] Datur in caput ejus ictus secundus, quo et ille in faciem concidit, positis 
primo genibus, conjunctis et extensis ad Deum manibus, secus aram, quae ibi erat, 
sancti Benedicti ; et curam habuit, 7 vel gratiam, ut honeste caderet, pallio suo 
coopertus usque ad talos,; quasi adoraturus et oraturus. Super dextram cecidit, 
ad dextram Dei iturus. 

[268] Eum procumbentem 8 Ricardus Brito percussit tanta vi ut et gladius ad 
caput ejus et ad ecclesiae pavimentum frangeretur : et ait " Hoc habeas pro 
amore domini mei Willelmi, fratris regis. . . ." 9 

[269] Quatuor 10 omnino habuit ictus sanctus archiepiscopus, omnes in capita ; 
et corona capitis tota ei amputata est. Tune videre erat, quomodo artus spiritui 

xxiii. 46 to Jesus, as His last utterance, where Matthew and Mark mention 
merely a "cry." 

7 Fitzstephen (who is full of allusions to the Latin poets) probably borrowed 
this point from Ovid's description of the death of Lucretia, Fast. ii. 833 "Tune 
quoque, jam moriens, ne non procumbat honeste Respicit. Haec etiam cura 
cadentis erat." 

8 Probably means " when he had fallen," as in 2700. See also 264- 

9 The writer here adds that the Archbishop had interdicted William's marriage 
with a lady whose former husband had been a cousin of William's. 

10 "Four" probably includes Tracy's second blow, which, with one from 
Fitzurse, would make three : and Brito's would make the fourth. Possibly 
Fitzstephen abstains from details as he is not certain about them. It seems 
improbable that he would call Mauclerc's extraction of the brains, after death, a 
" wound." 


obedient service to his spirit. For as in mind, so too in 
body, it was seen that he made no resistance to death either 
by parrying or avoidance. 11 For his death was voluntary, 
welcomed out of his desire to be with God not a mere 
violent death from the swords of the knights. 

[270] A certain Hugh of Horsea, known as Mauclerc, 
after the holy Martyr had fallen, 12 set his foot on his neck, 
and drew forth from the hollow of the amputated crown 
blood and brains with the point of his sword. . . . 13 

[271] (3) (John) For it did not suffice them to profane 
the church with the blood and slaughter of a priest, and to 
violate a most sacred day, unless they also lopped off that 
crown which had been dedicated to God by the anointing of 
the sacred chrism, and horrible even to speak of ! drew 
forth with their murderous swords the brains of the Martyr 
when he had breathed his last, and most cruelly scattered 
them on the pavement with his blood and bones. 14 

famulabantur. Nam sicut nee mente, ita nee membrorum objectu vel dejectu n 
morti visus est depugnare ; qui mortem excepit magis ex Dei desiderio voluntariam, 
quam de gladiis militum violentam. 

[270] Quidam Hugo de Horsea, cognomento Malus Clericus, sancti martyris 
procumbentis 12 collum pede comprimens, a concavitate coronae amputatae cum 
mucrone cruorem et cerebrum extrahebat. . . ." 13 

[271] (3) (John) Non enim suffecit iis sanguine sacerdotis et nece profanare 
ecclesiam et diem sacratissimum incestare, nisi, corona capitis, quam sacri chris- 
matis unctio Deo dicaverat, amputata (quod et dictu horribile est) funestis gladiis 
jam defuncti ejicerent cerebrum et per pavimentum cum cruore et ossibus 
crudelissime spargerent ; . . . u 

11 "Objectu etc." seems to mean "by putting an arm in front, to parry, or 
casting his body down, to avoid." 

12 [2700] " Fallen " (not " falling ") must be the meaning of " procumbentis " 
here, as it probably is in 264. This sentence is inserted rather abruptly, as 
though it were an afterthought. 

13 In a passage somewhat later on (omitted by J.) the writer likens the white 
and red visible in the martyr's wounds to the lilies and roses of the church. 

14 Contrast Grim's words (265) "not a knight, but a clerk." John might be 
excused for writing thus in a letter on the night of the Martyrdom, but hardly for 
repeating the statement in a biography. 

272 HIS DEATH 153 

[272] (4) (William) At this word, 15 I, who speak, think- 
ing (even as the rest) that I likewise was to be " struck " 
with the sword, as being conscious of sins and unfit for 
martyrdom 16 turning my back in rapid flight, ascended 
the steps, 17 beating my hands together [for horror]. 18 Forth- 
with some that were still standing to pray dispersed [or, 
" dispersed to pray "]. For no slight fear was cast on all 
by the Lord, but a great fear indeed, and one that might 
befall even the most steadfast. ... So the murderers, insti- 
gated by the minister of confusion, accumulating wounds on 
the [original] wound, dashed out his brains. 19 

[272] (4) (William) Ego qui loquor, hoc verbo, 15 sicut et caeteri, arbitrans 
me gladio pariter percutiendum, tanquam peccatorum conscius et minus idoneus 
martyrio, 16 celeri tergiversatione gradus 17 ascendi, complodens manus. 18 Protinus 
quidam stantes adhuc ad orationem dispersi sunt. Non enim levem omnibus 
timorem Dominus incussit, sed magnum, et qui posset cadere in quemvis con- 
stantissimum. . . . Itaque ministro confusionis instigati carnifices, in vulnere 
vulnera conferentes, cerebrum excusserunt. 19 

15 At Fitzurse's cry, " Strike ! Strike ! " 

16 Comp. what John of Salisbury says to the Archbishop in the palace (Mat. 
iv. 74), " We are sinners and not yet prepared to die : and I see no one (except 
you) that wants to die for nothing." 

17 " Steps." As he does not say " certain steps" or tell us what "steps " 
are meant, it is probable that the writer means the same " steps " that are 
frequently mentioned by the other writers, as leading to the choir. The same 
cause that induced the monks to lead the Archbishop up these steps, would 
induce William to run up them, namely, the fact that they led to the High Altar, 
which even the knights would probably respect. 

18 " Beating my hands together," an action recognized by classical writers as 
indicative of extreme agitation. Quintilian calls it " theatrical (scenicum)." 
Stanley translates it " with clasped hands " : but that does not quite express the 
extremity of fear and despair. 

19 This bald, abrupt, and inaccurate sentence was probably written by William 
(like the corresponding narrative of John) immediately after the Martyrdom ; 
perhaps on the same night, in his diary. It will be seen that he adds an Appendix 
in which, apparently, he relieves the knights collectively from the charge of 
"dashing out the brains" (324). 

What William says about " accumulating wounds on the wound " is confirmed 
by the rest, e.g. by Benedict, "enlarged the preceding wound." 

[272] Who is " the minister of confusion " ? Fitzurse, or Mauclerc ? It can 
hardly be a term for Satan, who would rather be " the author of confusion." 


[273] (5) (Benedict) And with head inclined he awaited 
the arrival of a second wound. 20 And, when the second 
wound was inflicted on his head, with body straightened, 
as though prostrating himself for prayer, he fell flat on 
the earth. But a third [knight], 21 lopping off a great portion 
of the skull, horribly enlarged the preceding wound. 

[274] But the fourth, being chidden by one of them 
because he delayed to strike, directing his sword with great 
force at the same wound, broke the weapon to pieces on the 
marble pavement, and left to the church both the blade and 
the hilt. . . , 22 

[275] . . . Nor did it seem to suffice the same son of 
Satan to have perpetrated such an outrage against God's 
Priest unless also horrible to speak of! he plunged his 
sword into the Martyr's most holy head, and drew out the 
brains after he had now breathed his last, scattering them most 
cruelly about the pavement, and calling aloud to his partners 
in that crime "He is dead. Let us go hence with all speed." 
Hence it may be conjectured that they feared lest. . . . 23 

[273] (5) (Benedict) Et inclinato capita secundi vulneris praestolabatur 
adventum. 20 Secundo vero vulnere capiti ejus inflicto, recto corpore quasi ad 
orationem prostratus in terrain corruit. Tertius 21 autem plurimam testae 
portionem amputando vulnus praecedens horribiliter ampliavit. 

[274] Quartus autem, ab uno eorum quod ferire tardaret correptus, in idem 
vulnus vi magna gladium vibravit, gladioque in pavimento marmoreo confracto, 
tarn cuspidem quam gladii sui capulum reliquit ecclesiae. . . .^ 

[275] Nee sufficere videbatur eidem filio Sathanae in Dei sacerdotem tantum 
perpetrasse flagitium, nisi etiam, quod dictu horribile est, injecto in sanctissimum 
caput ejus gladio, jam defuncto cerebrum ejiceret, et per pavimentum crudelissime 
spargeret, sceleris ejusdem participibus clamans, " Mortuus est, quantocius eamus 
hinc." Unde timuisse illos conjici potest. . . , 23 

20 No "first wound " has been mentioned in the extant fragments of Benedict : 
see 175, 2220. 

21 The writer passes from the " second wound" to the " third (knight)" assum- 
ing that each knight inflicted one wound. But this was not the case. Tracy struck 
twice, Morville not at all. " Tertium," a third (wound), would have been correct. 

22 [274] This, Benedict proceeds to say, portended the breaking in pieces 
of the sword of oppression directed against the Church. 

23 [275] The language very closely resembles that of John of Salisbury (271), 

276 HIS DEATH 155 

[276] (6) (Herbert) And by this time that sacred 
blood began to trickle forth along the face. So, perceiving 
[this], the Priest of the Most High, sacrificing himself to the 
Most High straightway casting away the cap 24 that he 
had been wont to wear on his head, raising up his eyes to 
heaven, bending his knee, and clasping his hands before his 
face, after the manner of one praying 25 in the temple [and] 
before the altar, 26 [as a true] priest, offered himself up a 
living sacrifice to God. . . . And so he extends his neck, 

[276] (6) (Herbert) Et jam sacer ille sanguis coepit emanare per faciem. 
Sentiens itaque sacerdos ille Altissimi, semet ipsum Altissimo immolans, immo- 
lationem jam inchoatam, confestim quod (sic) supra caput gestare consueverat 
abjecto 24 pileo, attollens in caelum oculos, genu flexo et, orantis modo, junctis 
ante se 25 manibus, in templo ante altare 26 sacerdos obtulit se ipsum hostiam 
vivam Deo. . . . Extendit itaque collum, exponit caput, se et ecclesiae causam 

which Benedict had probably read. But what John attributed to all the murderers, 
Benedict attributes to one, " the same son of Satan," whom he seems to call 
previously "the fourth (knight)." 

Now what had this "fourth (knight) " done? He had after being chidden 
for delay aimed a great blow at the fallen body, but it is not said that he out- 
raged the body of the Martyr when dead, but merely that he shattered his sword. 

There is probably some error in the text. It seems to have been originally 
applied to all the knights : for this is the most natural way of explaining the 
"conjecture" that "they" were "afraid" of the people; in consequence of 
which they would say " Let us depart with all speed." 

Or possibly Benedict may have here inserted (what the Quadrilogus omits) 
a description of Hugh Mauclerc as the instigator of the knights (comp. 
William (272^) " instigati ministro confusionis ") and may then have proceeded 
thus: " It did not seem enough for this son of Satan that they (i.e. the knights) 
should have perpetrated. . . . unless he also. ..." 

24 " Casting away (abjecto)." Herbert seems to regard the cap, not as being 
"struck down" or "cast down" ("decussus, dejectus," etc.) by the sword of 
Fitzurse, but as "cast away" by the Archbishop himself, in the act of preparing 
himself for his sacrificial death. This indicates that Herbert found a difficulty in 
the divergent traditions about "the cap." 

25 See 218-24, where Grim and Anon. I. say that he (i) lifted up his hands, or 
(2) placed his hands before his eyes. Herbert combines facts connected with the 
first wound i. e. the casting off of the cap, and the raising of the hands, and the 
commendation of the Martyr's soul with the " bending of the knees " which Grim 
places after the third wound. 

26 "Before the altar," inaccurately added in order to enhance the sacrificial 
aspect of the death (232). 


exposes his head, commending himself and the cause of the 
Church, to God, and to Mary the blessed Mother of God, 
and to the Advocatory Saints of Canterbury church, and to 
St. Denis the Apostle of the French : [to St. Denis, I say] 
in order that the cause of the Church might, through the 
inspiration of God, be commended more especially to that 
one martyr in particular to whom he himself, in the church, 
by a similar martyrdom, was destined to be presently 
assimilated in respect of the kind of his death : this Martyr, 
like that, being (?) deprived of the scalp. 27 

[277] So after exposing himself [to the stroke], 28 he 
presently commended the cause of the Church, which he 
had pleaded, to its Patrons, 29 and prayed for his [people]. 
But why say I " prayed " ? Nay rather, although, in these 
butchers' hands, he had already begun to welter in his own 
blood, yet over his butchers still exercising the authority 

Deo et beatae Dei genetrici Mariae et sanctis Cantuariensis ecclesiae advocatis, et 
beato Dionysio Francorum apostolo commendans, ut illi inter martyres potissimum 
Deo inspirante sic commendaretur ecclesiae causa, cui ipse in ecclesia per martyrium 
simile jam assimilabitur in poena, isto, sicut et illo, decalvato. 27 

[277] Se itaque exposito, 28 mox causam ecclesiae, quam egerat, patronis 29 
commendavit, et pro suis oravit. Sed quid dico "oravit"? Quin potius, etsi 
inter lanistarum manus jam etiam in sanguine suo volutari inciperet, tamen super 

27 [2760] (?) "Deprived of the scalp." "Decalvare" means "make bald." 
Apparently Herbert uses it here to mean "being scalped," or "having a part 
of the skull sliced off." It is similarly used in a letter (Mat. vii. 431) written 
(ostensibly by the Archbishop of Sens) to the Pope immediately after the Martyr- 
dom. In one MS., the actual authorship is claimed for Herbert, writing in the 
Archbishop's name. The style indicates that the claim is just. 

But the legend says that St. Denis was "beheaded," and that he carried his 
" head" after death. St. Chrysolius is said to have walked carrying " his cranium, 
which had been cleft from his scull by the executioner " (Brewer's Dictionary of 
Miracles, p. 169). I do not know whether there was any similar tradition about 
St. Denis. 

28 " Exposing " refers to " exposes his head," above. 

29 This is a confused repetition of what Herbert had said above about " the 
Advocatory Saints of Canterbury Cathedral. " There were two versions : the 
first mentioned the Patron Saints of the Cathedral ; the second mentioned the 
Patron Saints of the Church. Herbert gives the first above, and the second 

278 HIS DEATH 157 

of a priest, on the part of Almighty God, and under penalty 
of anathema, he imperiously inhibited 30 them from touch- 
ing any one, or harming any one, of his [people]. . . . For 
indeed he did not so much pray to them to spare, as 
anathematize them if they did not spare. ... So (as we 
have already said above) extending his neck, exposing his 
head, like unto one praying, he clasped his hands and bent 
his knees, while the lictors 31 (I can hardly write this . . . 
without an exuberant fountain of tears) the lictors (I say) 
on this side, and on that, strike and strike again, strike (I 
say) and strike again (sic), until they separated the crown of 
his head from the head. 

[278] And so the Lord's Christ, the Lord's Anointed, 
was immolated precisely in that spot [of his body] in which 
he was anointed, while the sword of slaughter first took the 
place of, and then gave place to, the sacred oil of unction. 32 
For that holy flesh, remaining elsewhere untouched and 
unharmed, suffered that unprecedented sacrilege merely in 
that small portion of the flesh where the priestly and 

lanistas suos sacerdotalis officii auctoritate fungens adhuc, ex parte omnipotentis 
Dei et sub anathemate imperiose inhibuit 30 ne quern suorum tangerent, ne quern 
laederent. . . . Nee enim tarn orabat ut parcerent, quam anathematizabat eos, 
si non parcerent. . . . Itaque (ut jam supra diximus) collo extento, capite 
exposito, orantis instar junctis manibus et flexis genibus, lictores 31 (quod sine 
exuberante lacrymarum fonte . . . vix dicere valeo) lictores (inquam) bine inde 
feriunt et referiunt, feriunt (inquam) et referiunt, donee coronam capitis separarunt 
a capite. 

[278] Et ita christus Domini, unctus Domini, ibi est immolatus ubi unctus, 
sacro oleo unctionis succedente et cedente gladio occisionis. 32 Nam sancto illo 
corpore in reliquis intacto et illaeso, in sola ilia corporis particula qua sacerdotii 

30 Herbert places here, with tedious repetition, the anathema placed much 
earlier by the other writers. Here follow some seven pages of ejaculatory writing, 
containing no facts. A few specimens are given above, to show the style. 

31 See 129. 

32 The sword, for the moment, usurped the place of the chrism, filling it with 
blood. But soon the sword, subdued by the Martyr's miracles, had to give place. 
The shattering of Brito's sword was a type of this (2740). 


pontifical privilege was conspicuous. 33 And so by the 
lictors he was bereft of scalp and crown : and that, too, 
not by a blow from behind. But, as one who (even to the 
end) had always " stretched forwards to those things that 
are before 34 " always a Patron of what was right and 
straight so now with body straight he fell forward on his 
face in death upon the pavement of the church. 

[279] And this is the end of his consummation. And 
these things were done by the four knights, together with a 
cohort, in this Passion of the Lord's Christ, as also in the 
Passion of Christ Himself. And one of the cohort, turning 
back, approached and drew near : who also, in order that he 
might carry certain news of the Martyr's death though he 
had already died pierced him with the point of his sword, 
and drew forth the brains of that holy head, and poured 
them forth upon the pavement of the church : [he was] as 
was said, [sprung] from that above-mentioned offspring of 
vipers, 35 namely Robert de Broc. 36 

[280] (7) (Anon. I.) Then approached William de 
Traci and with a great blow smote him on the head. But 

et pontificii eminebat privilegium, 33 inauditum illud sacrilegium admissum est. 
Et ita a lictoribus decalvatus decoronatus est, ut quidem non a tergo, sed qui 
usque in finem in anteriora se semper extenderat, 34 patronus semper recti, recto 
corpore super ecclesiae pavimentum jam moriens ante faciem cecidit. 

[279] Et hie est consummationis viri finis. Et milites quidem haec fecerunt 
quatuor cum cohorte in hac passione christi Domini, sicut et in passione ipsius 
Christi. Et unus de cohorte revertens accessit propius. Qui et, ut certissime 
nuntiaret mortuum, qui tamen jam mortuus erat, cuspide gladii fixit et sancti 
capitis cerebrum extraxit, et super ecclesiae pavimentum effudit ; ut dicebatur, 
de praefata ilia viperarum progenie, 35 videlicet Robertus de Broc hie erat. . . , 36 

[280] (7) (Anon. I.) Tune accessit Guillelmus de Traci, grandique ictu 

33 " Privilege," the anointing on the crown. 

34 Philipp. iii. 13. 

35 "Offspring of vipers." Com p. Herbert's previous words (Mat. iii. 483) 
" And especially that offspring of vipers called the De Brocs (progenies ilia 
viperarum quae dicitur de Brocheis) kept insulting and wronging him (the 

36 An error. It was Hugh Mauclerc. 

281 HIS DEATH 159 

as yet he showed no signs of falling. Then the said William 
smote him again still more mightily, and at that blow the 
holy man fell flat forward on the pavement. But Richard 
Brito smote him, when he was prostrated on the pavement, 
and broke his sword in the middle, by contact with the 
stone. While this was doing, Hugh of Maureville was 
occupied in driving away the common people, who were 
pressing in ; and so it came to pass that he did not smite 
him with his own hand. But Hugh Mauclerc, wickedest of 
all mankind, approaching the Archbishop where he lay, set 
his foot on his neck, and fixing his sword deep in the head, 
scattered the brains upon the pavement, saying in a loud 
voice, " Let us go ; for the traitor is dead." 

[281] (8) (Anon. II.) Then the brave champion said to 
the murderers, " If ye would have my life, on the part of 
God, by anathema, I prohibit you from touching any of my 
[people], because nothing that I may have done is to be 
imputed to them . . . : " Then, fortifying himself with the 
sign of the cross, 37 and joining his hands after the manner 
of one praying to God, inclining his head to meet the im- 
pending swords, he stood unmoved, uttering these as his 
last words, " To God, and St. Mary, and the Saints of this 

percussit in capita ; qui tamen adhuc minima cecidit. Item percussit isdem 
Guillelmus enixius, et ad ilium ictum corruit vir sanctus pronus in pavimento. 
Ricardus vero Brito jam in pavimento prostratum percussit, fregitque ensem suum 
per medium ad lapidem oppositum. Dum haec aguntur, Hugo de Maurevilla in 
abigendo populo qui imminebat occupatus erat ; et ita contigit quod manu sua 
non percussit eum. Hugo vero Malus-clericus, omnium hominum sceleratissimus, 
accedens ad jacentem posuit pedem super collum ejus, gladiumque defigens in 
capite spargebat cerebrum ejus super pavimentum, clamans et dicens " Eamus, 
mortuus est enim proditor." 

[281] (8) (Anon. II.) Tune athleta fortis ad carnifices "Si caput," inquit, 
"meum vultis, ex parte Dei per anathema prohibeo ne quenquam meorum 
tangatis, quia nihil imputandum est illis quod egerim ; " . . . Deinde signo 
crucis 37 se muniens, et junctis in modum orantis ad Deum manibus, contra gladios 
imminentes caput inclinans, stetit immotus, haec ultima verba proferens, " Deo 
et sanctae Mariae et hujus ecclesiae sanctis beatoque Dionysio commendo me et 

37 Not mentioned by any other writer. 


Church, and St. Denis, I commend myself and my Church." 
But, under the headlong impulse of the devil, these madmen 
presently rushed furiously upon him and attacked him with 
their swords all the more villainously because he was 
unarmed and unprepared 3S and neither legally judged nor 
legally examined, yet steadfast and free from all sign 
of perturbation. For not even in that last moment was 
his fixed purpose turned aside ; 39 but with neck in that 
instant stretched out he bravely received great blows on 
the crown that had been blessed and consecrated with 

[282] What need of words ? Ah, sorrow ! The Lord's 
Christ, the Blessed of God, before the altar of St. Benedict, 40 
on the fourth 41 day after Christ's birth, after the top of 
his head, with the brains, had been cut off was mutilated 
and laid low by the monstrous act of cruel men ; to the 
intent that, under the wonderful providence of God, he 
might receive death in front of the sepulchres of his dead 
co-archbishops, neither resisting, nor uttering complaint, or 

ecclesiam meam." Diabolico vero praecipitatus impulsu furentium impetus mox 
eum gladiis apetiit tanto nequius quanto minus praemunitum et improvisum, 38 et 
nee judicatum nee discussum, constantem tamen et velut in nullo turbatum. Nee 
enim vel adhuc aversus 39 est rigor ejus, sed collo tune extento grandes super 
benedictam et chrismate sacratam coronam fortiter ictus excepit. 

[282] Quid multa ? Proh dolor ! christum Domini, benedictum Dei, ante 
altare sancti Benedicti, 40 die quinto 41 natalis Christi crudelium immanitas capitis, 
cum cerebro, summitate praecisa truncavit et stravit, ut, mira Dei providentia, 
mortem ante mortuorum coarchiepiscoporum sepulturas exceperit, nee resistens nee 
conquerens nee obmurmurans nee ingemiscens, sed se post ictus aliquot velut ad 

38 " Unprepared" seems contrary, not only to fact, but to the writer's narra- 
tive. Could it mean "unprovided (with means of defence) "? "Improvisum," 
in classical Latin, means "unexpected." 

39 See note 43. The meaning is that his body was as straight, stiff, and 
erect, as his mind. 

40 There is a play on the name, " the Blessed of God before the altar of St. 

41 "Fourth" (29 Dec.). The Latin language, reckoning 25 Dec. as one of 
the days, says "fifth." 

284 HIS DEATH 161 

murmur, or groan, but (after some blows) stretching (?) ^ 
himself out as though for prayer on the pavement, so that even 
here, too, his fixed purpose was not turned aside, 43 but, from 
that time forward, his soul, altogether intent on heaven, left 
behind it [on earth] a just fear of a more terrible vengeance. 

[283] Then one of the knights 44 himself too a son of 
Belial, made by his wickedness conspicuously wicked among 
the wicked for all ages searched with the point of his 
sword for the remnant of the brain in the remnant of the 
skull of the now lifeless head, and cast it out, and scattered 
it on the ground, not so much to remove lingering doubts 
about death (in the case of one who had already died) as 
rather to allow his frenzied cruelty to satiate itself (or, to 
satisfy himself with a frenzy of cruelty). 

[284] (9) (Anon. IV.) Even then he stood . . . without 
murmur, without complaint, and, while offering himself as a 
holocaust to the Lord, implored the advocacy of the Saints. 
And, lest any of these murderous knights of the King should 
possibly be maintained to be guiltless on the ground that 
he had not touched the Archbishop, the second . . . and 
the third cruelly dashed their swords against the top [of the 

orationem in pavimento distendens, 42 ut et hie quoque non fuerit aversus 43 rigor 
ejus, sed ex tune anima ipsius, caelo prorsus intenta, terribilioris vindictae metum 
juste reliquerit. . . . 

[283] Tune unus ex militibus, 44 et ipse filius Belial, inter scelestos caeteros 
saeculis omnibus scelere detestabilior, in residua capitis jam exanimis testa cerebri 
residuum cum ensis mucrone scrutatus ejecit et solo sparsit, non tarn ne mortis in 
jam mortuo dubitatio resideret, quam ut sibi saevitiae dementia satisfaceret. 

[284] (9) (Anon. IV.) Stabat adhuc . . . sine murmure, sine querimonia, 
et se ipsum holocaustum offerens Domino sanctorum patrocinia implorabat. Et 
ne quis funestorum satellitum intacto praesule inscelestus argui posset, secundus 
. . . et tertius gladios suos vertici constantis athletae atrociter illiserunt, con- 

42 " Distending," the editor makes no remark. It is perhaps an error for 

43 This seems a repetition of the thought above, " nee enim vel adhuc aversus 
est rigor ejus." Probably the writer has in view the refrain in Is. ix. 12, 17, 21, 
" For all this, his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still." 

44 [283#] An error. It was the "clerk," Hugh of Horsea. 



head] of the steadfast Champion, [and] shattered [them], and 
precipitated to the ground the [sacrificial] victim of the Holy 
Spirit. The fourth, 45 in a frenzy of cruelty worse than that 
of beasts, nay, [worse than that] 46 of madmen, when he was 
now prostrated, when he was now breathing his last, 47 lopped 
off the shaven 48 crown, scattered the [bones of] the skull, 49 
and after inserting the sword's point in the top [of the head] 
poured forth the brains with the blood upon the stone 
pavement. . . . 50 Thus our holy Saint . . . Thomas, ... a 
precious stone in the celestial building [of the Church], being 
[as it were] carved foursquare 51 by the blows of their swords, 
was joined to the corner-stone, namely, Christ, in the heavens. 
(10) (Anon. V.) While two others were smiting him on 
the head, the fourth, plunging his sword deep into the head, 52 
dug out the brains and scattered them along the pavement. 

fregerunt, et Spiritus Sancti victimam solo tenus praecipitaverunt. Quartus, 45 
plusquam ferali, immo furiali, 46 crudelitate debacchatus, jam prostrato, jam 
exspiranti, 47 coronam rasilem 48 abscidit, testam capitis dissipavit, 49 et mucrone 
vertici intruso cerebrum cum sanguine super pavimentum lapideum effudit. . . . 50 
Sic noster beatissimus . . . Thomas, . . . caelestis aedificii lapis pretiosus, 
gladiorum conquadratus 51 ictibus angulari lapidi Christo in caelis est conjunctus. 

(10) (Anon. V.) Aliis duobus ipsum in caput ferientibus, quartus 52 gladio in 
caput profundius injecto cerebrum illius effossum per pavimentum sparsit. 

46 "The fourth." An error (283). The best authorities agree that Hugh 
of Morville did not strike the Archbishop. 

46 If "plusquam" is not repeated before "furiali," the meaning will be, 
"nay, worthy of madmen." 

47 No other writer suggests that this outrage was inflicted while life remained. 

48 This writer, alone, inserts the epithet "shaven," so as to define "crown." 
He speaks of the " tonsure," whereas Herbert speaks of the chrism, as (apparently) 
consecrating the head. 

49 Gervase (396) mentions "bony pieces of the head (testulas)" ; and perhaps 
this is the meaning here. "Testa" can hardly mean "the brains," as they are 
mentioned in the next clause. 

60 Here the writer compares the white and red of the wounds to the white 
linen of innocence and the purple of martyrdom (264). 

61 "Conquadratus" refers to ihe/ottr blows, as if it meant "carved so as to 
be four-square." 

62 Beside committing the error of imputing this outrage to one of the knights, 
this writer takes the curious view depicted in the picture on Henry IV.'s tomb 

285 HIS DEATH 163 

[285] (11) (Anon. X.) Afterwards, on receiving another 
blow on the head, 53 the Martyr bent his knees and arms. 
But a third [blow] inflicted a severe wound on him when thus 
fallen on the ground. 54 A fourth [blow], in the crown, 
which was of [unusually] large width, so enlarged the 
wound 55 that the blood whitening from the brain, and the 
brain reddening from the blood, decorate the face of the 
Martyr and Confessor at once with lilies and roses, the 
colours of the Church as Virgin and as Mother. 56 But 
this is worthy of special wonder that they did not inflict 
different wounds on him but enlarged one and the 
same wound. The crown, just as it was, they almost 
lopped off. 57 

[285] ( 1 1 ) (Anon. X. ) Deinde alio ^ ictu in capite recepto martyr genua 
flexit et cubitos. At tertius ita solo procumbent! grave vulnus impressit. 54 
Quartus in corona, quae amplae latitudinis erat, ita vulnus ampliavit K ut sanguis 
albens ex cerebro, et cerebrum rubens ex sanguine, liliis et rosis, coloribus 
virginis et matris ecclesiae, faciem confessoris et martyris decoret. 56 Hoc 
admiratione vero non minima dignum, quod non ei diversa vulnera inflixerunt, 
sed unum et idem vulnus ampliaverunt. Coronam, sicut fuit, fere absci- 
derunt. 67 

(249), where one knight has struck off the cap, or scalp (which is lying on the 
ground), two (Brito and Tracy) are striking at the head with their sword-blades, 
while a fourth (Fitzurse) is holding his sword vertically in two hands above the 
kneeling Martyr, and plunging the point into the wound. 

63 This is a version of Grim, falsified by omitting (between " head " and " the 
Martyr") the words, "Even then he still remained immoveable. But on being 
struck a third time." 

64 The writer (apparently substituting "third [blow]" for "third knight") 
has appropriated the first part of Grim's sentence ita procumbenti grave vulnus 
inflixit, quo ictu" etc. In the next sentence he applies to the "fourth [blow]" 
what Grim applies to "a third knight." "Procumbenti" (2700), "fallen," not 

55 Comp. Benedict, "horribly enlarged the preceding wound." 

66 The words "that the blood . . . Mother" are from Grim, omitting all 
that is difficult. 

67 It would be possible to render thus, " the crown, almost as it was, they 
lopped off." "As it was" means that the crown was not gashed or mangled by 
a diversity of strokes. The writer defers the account of the scattering of the 
brains till the next section. 


[286] (12) (Gamier) Then did Master Edward abandon 
him at this blow. "Strike," said then William, But then 
there struck him Lord Renald Fitzurse, but smote him 
not down. Then struck him again William de Traci Who 
smote his brains quite out, and St. Thomas fell. 

[287] 58 To Saltwood returned those felons. Of their 
great felony that night they boasted. William de Traci 
said and affirmed That he had gashed the arm of John of 
Salisbury : 59 For this cause know we that he wounded 
Master Edward. 

[288] Because he was without armour he was quite 
the first to follow him, 60 And was well known by face and 
voice : A coat green and mantle parti-coloured. When he 
saw that Renald Fitzurse recoiled, Twice, as I have said, 
did he smite the Saint on the head. 

[289] But when Richard le Bret saw him thus struck 
down, And on the pavement lying all stretched out, Some- 
what in haste, 60a he smote him with other blows, So that on 

[286] Dune 1'aveit i eel colp mestre Edward [288] Pur 50 k'iert desarmez tut primiers le 

guerpi. siwi, 60 

" Ferez," fet dune Willames. Mes idunc le Et bien fu coneuz et al vis et al cri ; 

feri Une cote vert ot et mantel mi-parti. 

Danz Renalz, le fils Hurs, mes pa ne 1'abati. Quant il vit ke Renalz li filz Urs resorti, 

Idunc le referi Willames de Traci Dous feiz, si cum j'ai dit, le saint al chief feri. 
Qui tut 1'escervela, et saint Thomas chai. [289] Mes quant Richarz li Brez le vit si 

[287] *8 A Saltewoode sunt li felun returne. abatu, 

De lur grant felunie se sunt la noit vant6. E sur le pavement gesir tut estendu, 

Willames de Traci a dit et afermg Un poi en bescoz la des autres cops feru, 600 
Johan de Salesbire aveit le bras colp6 : &> 
Pur 50 savum qu'il ot mestre Edward nafr6. 

68 The next ten lines state, as a digression, what William of Canterbury states 
in an Appendix (320). 

69 These words appear capable of meaning " John of Salisbury had his arm 
wounded " : but Gamier regards them as meaning "he had wounded the arm of 
John of Salisbury," and this is William's view (321). 

60 Gamier has said above (1. 5491), "William came in front. ... In order 
to be lighter, he would not wear a hauberk." He now seems to say that on 
this account William de Traci was the first to follow the Archbishop into the 
Cathedral. He did not mention this above, where the four knights (seemingly) 
enter simultaneously. 

600 " Bescoz." Godefroy gives " bescousse (bescosse) " = " secousse," " agita- 
tion." Perhaps it means "excitement." 

292 HIS DEATH 165 

the stone he broke in two his sharp sword. At the 
Martyr's tomb the piece, quite bare, is kissed [by pilgrims]. 

[290] When those felons smote him and wounded him, 
And roughly put forth all their strength to smite him, 
He struggled 606 not, nor groaned, nor cried, nor called 
aloud, Nor hand, nor foot, did he draw in, or stretch out, 
For on God throughout did his courage lean. And even as 
in Calvary God was crucified By Jews who were His sons, 
and [that, too,] for human sin, [So] there, where their tres- 
passes were set right by righteousness, Did his own sons 61 
make martyr of this man for the clergy, [Even] there, where 
their misdeeds are taken away and made naught. 62 

[291] Hugo of Moreville had run beyond, And checked 
[and drove] back the people who had come up ; [He] feared 
lest the Archbishop might then be taken from them : 
This may be because he came to himself; And thus was 
he kept from [working] his felonious intent. 

[292] When in Jerusalem this son of Rachel was thus 
murdered, These knights of Herod (that seed of Ishmael) 
Severed not the crown 63 from his head, But he retained it 
by the flesh of the forehead and by the skin, So that all 
bare to view you might have seen the brain. 

K'a la piere a brisi6 en dous sun brant molu. [291] Huge de Moreville esteit ultre coruz ; 

Al martir beise Tun la piece tut a nu. Chachout le pueple arere, ki esteit survenuz ; 

[290] Kan ke li felun 1'unt feru et detrenchie Cremi ke 1'arcevesques ne lur fust dune toluz. 

E del ferir se sunt durement esforci6, Puet eel estre qu'il s'est en sei reconeuz ; 

N'aveit bret, ne gruni, ne cri, ne huchie' ; 6 06 E de sa felonie s'est issi defenduz. 
Ne pie ne main n'aveit a sei tret he sachie', [292] Quant en Jerusalem fu ociz li filz 

Car k Deu ot del tut sun corage apuie. Rachel, 

Et si cum en Calvaire unt Deu crucifie Li chevalier Herode, la lignee Ismael, 

Geiu, ki si fil erent, et pur 1'umain pecchie, Ne li serrerent pas del chief le chapel : & 

La ou li forfet erent par justise adrescie, Mes al charnail del frunt retint et a la pel, 

Unt pur les clers cestui si fil 61 martirie ; Que tut a descovert veissiez le cervel. 
IA ou li mesfet sunt ost6 et esneie. 62 

606 " Bret." Is this from " brester " = " se debattre," " se demener " ? 

61 "His own sons." The knights were, technically, the "sons" of their 
Archbishop, their "father in God." 

62 " Even there." That is, in the church, where the sacrifice of the Mass 
was offered up for the sins of men. 

63 [2920] " Crown (chapel)." The French word also means " cap." 


[293] And the above-named Hugo Malclers, who entered 
after them, On the neck of St. Thomas set his foot and 
pierced [him] ; The brain with his sword out of the head 
did he cast, Upon the pavement, and cried out to them : 
" Let us go hence," said he, " never will he rise again." 

[294] (13) (The Saga) Yet the wound was so great that 
the blood flowed over the eyes and face of the Archbishop. 
After this, William called in a grim voice on his fellows, 
saying, " Cut ye, cut ye ! " says he. But at this call there 
came such fear upon the Archbishop's men that each fled 
his own way. But at this first wound the holy lamb-offering 
of the living God, lord Archbishop Thomas, lifteth his hands 
and eyes up to heaven, and thus awaiteth the second blow 
with a bared head. And next another knight dealeth a 
blow down upon the head, and at that blow the Archbishop 
falleth forward, his body being stretched on the floor so 
sweetly as if he were offering himself in prayer a living 
sacrifice, as one who died in order to redeem the human 
race. As was said even now, the limb of the foe felleth 
and layeth low on earth his own father 64 in the womb of 
his mother. 65 

[295] After this the third knight setteth upon the 
Archbishop, lying on the floor, in such manner that he 
brandisheth the sword and cutteth away nearly the whole 
of the crown, so that only a little held it to the forehead . . . 
But as the fourth knight is egged on by his comrades to 
get him a share of this mighty deed, he dealeth a blow into 
the wound of his lifeless father with such force that the 

[293] E cil Huge Malclers, qui apres els Le cervel od I'espe'e hors del chief li geta, 

entra, De sur le pavement, et a cejs s'escria : 

Sur le col saint Thomas mist sun pie et ficha ; " Alun-nus en," fet-il, " ja-mes ne resurdra." 

11. 5501-45- 

64 i.e. his "father in God." See 290. 

65 [294#] i-e. inside the church. Comp. Herbert (228a), and also the letter to 
the Pope written ostensibly by the Archbishop of Sens, but probably (276a) by 
Herbert (Mat. vii. 432), "in visceribus propriae matris proprium peremit patrem." 

298 HIS DEATH 167 

point of the sword dasheth against the marble, and the 
sword itself breaketh into two parts. And so he departeth 
therefrom that both fragments of the sword lie behind as 
memorials for the church. . . . 66 

[296] Now as the two kinsmen, Ranulf and Robert, 
were the first to join the warfare of the two knights, so they 
desire to get their share in the wicked deeds. Ranulf there- 
fore . . . this devil's limb thrusteth the point of the sword 
into the opened skull and stirreth the blood together with 
the brain, scattering it afterwards about. . . . But when his 
kinsman Robert seeth this mighty deed, he ... driveth 
the sword into the empty skull of the Archbishop, crying at 
the same time to his accursed followers, "Away hence, 
away hence ! " 

[297] (i.) (Stanley, pp. 92-4) The next blow, whether 
struck by Tracy or Fitzurse, was only with the flat of 
the sword? 1 and again on the bleeding head, which Becket 
drew back as if stunned, and then raised his clasped hands 
above it. 

[298] The blood from the first blow was trickling down 
his face in a thin streak ; he wiped it with his arm, and 

66 This prefigured, he adds, the breaking of worldly power. Then he asks 
who could possibly be the men that would wreak on the dead body unprecedented 
deeds of shame ? They could be none other than " the vipers of Broc." So he 
makes them both do this deed. Herbert makes Robert de Broc do it. Both 
are misled by the fallacy of the Fitness of Things (379). Possibly they may have 
been also misled by a tradition assigning this deed to " a limb of Satan," or " son 
of perdition " a name given by Becket to Ranulf de Broc (460). 

67 "The flat of the sword." The only writer that mentions a blow inflicted 
on the Archbishop with the flat of the sword is Fitzstephen (171), and he places 
it much earlier, during the attempt to frighten or force the Archbishop out of the 
Cathedral. Concerning this blow, Stanley has said above, that it was " perhaps 
in kindness." 

Stanley refers for this statement to "Will. Cant., 32; Grim, 66." Will. 
Cant. chap. 39 (Mat. i. 134-5) describes a blow with the flat of the sword in- 
flicted, not on the Archbishop, but on "one of the brethren." Grim, chap. 82 
(Mat. ii. 437), describes all the blows in detail, but mentions none as dealt with 
"the flat of the sword." 


when he saw the stain, he said " Into thy hands, O Lord, I 
commend my spirit" 6 

[299] At the third blow, which was also 69 from Tracy, 
he sank on his knees his arms falling but his hands still 
joined as if in prayer. With his face turned towards the 
altar of St. Benedict, he murmured in a low voice, which 
might just have been caught by the wounded Grim, who 
was crouching close by, 70 and who alone reports the words 
" For the name of Jesus, and the defence of the church, 
I am willing to die." 

[300] Without moving hand or foot, he fell flat on his 
face as he spoke, in front of the corner wall of the chapel, 71 
and with such dignity that his mantle, which extended from 
head to foot, was not disarranged 

68 " I commend my spirit." These words, which are placed by Stanley after 
the second blow, are placed by Fit/stephen (the only writer that mentions them) 
after the first. As will be shewn below (310-14), they were probably not 
uttered at alL 

69 "At the third blow, which was also from Tracy." But (i) the first line 
of this passage speaks of the second blow, " whether struck by Tracy or Fitzurse," 
and (2) the last extract from Stanley assigned the first blow unhesitatingly to 
Tracy. Thus the question left open in (i) leaves it open to suppose that Tracy 
struck the first three blows a view contrary to all evidence, and supported by no 
writer, even the most inaccurate. 

70 "Grim, who was crouching by." This is very likely. But Stanley has 
said above (quoting from William) that Grim " fled disabled to the nearest altar, 
probably that of St. Benedict within the chapel." 

The two statements are incompatible. If William is telling the truth, 
" several of the brethren " were sheltering at that altar to which Grim " fled " ; 
and these would have heard what Grim heard. But no other tradition has pre- 
served these words. Probably William is not telling the truth, and Grim is. If 
so, we may keep the words "crouching by." But we must cancel " fled," above. 

71 " In front, etc." A more explicit tradition is that preserved by Gamier 
(332) and Herbert, quoted in Quadrilogus (Mat. iv. 398), that he fell "toward 
the north." If the altar of St. Benedict was to the east, the Martyr would fall 
not so as to front it, but having it on his right hand. 

72 " His mantle . . . not disarranged." The only authority for this is 
Fitzstephen. Even Herbert, who is diffuse about the grace and quietude of the 
body, says nothing about the mantle. Fitzstephen appears to be borrowing from 
Ovid's account of the becoming death of a chaste woman a detail inapplicable 
to the fall of a man and a martyr (267). 

304 HIS DEATH 169 

[301] In this posture he received from Richard the 
Breton a tremendous blow, accompanied with the exclama- 
tion (in allusion to a quarrel of Becket with Prince William) 
M Take this for love of my lord William, brother of the King." 
The stroke was aimed with such violence that the scalp or 
crown of the head which, it was remarked, was of unusual 
size was severed from the skull, and the sword snapt in 
two on the marble pavement. The fracture of the murderous 
weapon was reported by one of the eye-witnesses as a presage 
of the ultimate discomfiture of the Archbishop's enemies. 

[302] Hugh of Horsea, the subdeacon who had joined 
them as they entered the church, taunted by the others 
with having taken no share in the deed, planted his foot on 
the neck of the corpse, thrust his sword into the ghastly 
wound, and scattered the brains over the pavement 
" Let us go let us go," he said in conclusion. " The 
traitor is dead ; he will rise no more." 

[303] This was the final act. One only of the four 
knights had struck no blow. Hugh de Morville throughout 
retained the gentler disposition 1 ^ for which he was distinguished, 
and contented himself with holding back at the entrance of 
the transept the crowds who were pouring in through the 

[304] (ii.) (Tennyson) 
DE TRACY. There is my answer then. 

\Sword falls on GRIM'S arm, and glances 

from it, wounding BECKET. 
GRIM. Mine arm is sever'd. 

73 No one says that the knights taunted the clerk, Hugh of Horsea. Those 
who mention any "taunting," or chiding, regard it as addressed by the knights 
to one of their own number, the striker of the last stroke. None regard the out- 
rage on the dead body as the result of " taunting." 

7 * "Gentler disposition." On the origin of this error, see 212. To what 
is there said may be added the Archbishop's rejoinder to Morville, in the 
Palace interview, recorded by the authoritative Anon. I. (Mat. iv. 73) : "How 
high you hold your head ! " 


I can no more fight out the good fight die 

Conqueror. [Staggers into the chapel of St. Benedict?** 

BECKET {falling on his knees]. At the right hand of Power 
Power and great glory for thy Church, O Lord 

Into thy hands, O Lord into Thy hands / 76 [Sinks prone. 

DE BRITO. This last to rid thee of a world of brawls ! 

{Kills him. 
The traitor's dead, and will arise no more. 77 

FITZURSE. Nay, have we still'd him ? What ! the great Arch- 
bishop ! 
Does he breathe ? No ? 

[305] DE TRACY. No, Reginald, he is dead. 

[Storm bursts 

DE MORVILLE. Will the earth gape and swallow us ? 79 
DE BRITO. The deed's done 

Away ! 

[DE BRITO, DE TRACY, FITZURSE, rush out, crying "Kings men I" 
DE MORVILLE follows slowly. Flashes of lightning thro* the 
Cathedral. ROSAMUND seen kneeling by the body of BECKET. 

2. Details of the death 

[306] Grim, Anon. I., and Gamier agree that the Arch- 
bishop did not fall till the third blow. Others say that he 

75 See 299. 

76 " Into thy hands." See 298. 

77 will arise no more." Tennyson assigns to one of the knights the words 
uttered by the clerk, who commits the outrage. But some such change is drama- 
tically necessary. The clerk, in any case, could not have been exhibited on the 
stage as doing what he did. It is perhaps, however, a defect that the words 
" will arise no more " follow immediately on the last blow, dispensing with the 
interval that really occurred. Afterwards, Tracy's " he is dead " comes somewhat 
as a bathos. The last words of these instruments of Satan were, according to the 
best authorities, negative a denial of St. Thomas's resurrection : and for re- 
taining them in that position there is much to be said historically, theologically, 
and, perhaps, dramatically. 

78 "Storm." Fitzstephen is the only authority for this "storm." It prob- 
ably springs from the fallacy of the Fitness of Things (see 341-5). 

79 " Gape and swallow." Tracy is asserted by Herbert to have said in con- 
fession to the Bishop of Exeter that when the knights left the Cathedral they felt 
as though the earth would swallow them. As a fact they left shouting "King's 
men ! " And Tracy is said to have been very free that night in Saltwood Castle, 
boasting of his achievements. 

308 HIS DEATH 171 

fell at the second, and one (Anon. V.) at the first. Grim, a 
stranger, mentions none of the visored knights by name, except 
' Reinald," whose name he heard pronounced by Becket. 
The rest he mentions by number, "the third," "the fourth." 
Of the fifth, however, who was not in knight's armour, he 
says, " no knight, but that clerk who had entered with the 
knights." This, as Fitzstephen and Anon. I. tell us, was 
Hugh of Horsea, or Mauclerc. Herbert (probably confusing 
the " entering " into the Cathedral with the " entering " into 
the Palace, where Robert de Broc was the leader) says, " This 
was Robert de Broc" an error adopted by Quadrilogus, 
The text of Benedict, as preserved by Quadrilogus, states 
that the fifth, the man who pushed out the brains with his 
sword, was " the same child of Satan " that inflicted the fourth 
blow : but there may have been omitted some passage of 
Benedict's mentioning Hugh Mauclerc as coming with the 
knights into the Cathedral. Possibly, therefore, Benedict is 
not in error. 

[307] Anon. IV. and Anon. V., perhaps because they 
found no part in the actual murder assigned to the fourth 
knight, ascribe this vile action to him. Perhaps they were 
also misled by a similarity of names, the fourth knight being 
Hugh of Morville, while the " wicked clerk " was Hugh of 
Horsea. Grim, Anon. I., and Gamier explain that Hugh 
of Morville (whom the last two mention by name) was 
engaged in keeping off the people from attempting a rescue. 

[308] William tells us frankly that at this point he had 
fled. So had John of Salisbury. These two * seem to assign 
to all the knights the scattering of the Martyr's brains. At 
all events they describe it as done by " them " ; but perhaps 
they use the pronoun indefinitely. Here, then, the earliest 
writer (John) goes wrong ; and the corrections made by 
Grim, Anon. I., Gamier, and (in some respects) Herbert, are 

1 On Benedict's assignment of the act to "the above-mentioned (idem) child 
of Satan," see 2750. 


signs of later narratives correcting an earlier one that had 
been too hastily published. 

[309] The act of Hugh of Horsea, outrageous though it 
was, appears to have been at all events dictated mainly, if 
not entirely, by the desire to ascertain that the victim was 
quite dead : and this is, perhaps too positively, asserted by 
Herbert. He likens the act to that of Longinus (the soldier 
that pierced Christ on the Cross), but descants on the man's 
wickedness as compared with that of the Roman soldier. 
Anon. II. protests against this too lenient view. The man 
did it, he says, " not so much to ascertain the Martyr's death 
as for the satisfaction of his insane cruelty." 

3. The Archbishop's last words 

[310] These are recorded by Grim alone, as follows : 
" For the name of Jesus and the protection of the Church I 
am prepared to embrace death." 

Why do Stanley and Tennyson reject these words ? 
Apparently, because (i) no other writer records them, (2) 
they may seem to be a repetition of what (according to Grim) 
the Martyr had already twice said before, 1 (3) they are not 
so attractive to the modern reader as the familiar words 
" Into thy hands I commend my spirit." 

(i) But if no other writer recorded them, one reason is 

1 Mat. ii. 436 " I am ready to die in the name of Him who redeemed me by 
His blood," " I am prepared to die for my Lord, that in my blood the Church 
may obtain liberty and peace." Comp. an anonymous letter written to the Pope 
by one who "came to Canterbury on the day" of the Martyrdom. It compresses 
all the sayings into one, and makes one " executioner." To the question, 
"Where is the Archbishop?" he replies (Mat. vii. 436) "taliter, demisso quidem 
sed audibili valde sermone," " Ego sum ; et tu, O Reginalde, cum complicibus 
tuis vade retro, quia nescitis quid facitis. Verumtamen si me quaeritis occiden- 
dum, ne ceteros contingatis. In nomine ejus mortem excipere paratus sum qui pro 
me servo suo mori dignatus est." In the italicized words, the writer closely re- 
sembles Grim as well as in what follows : and the similarity suggests that he may 
have borrowed (not quite accurately) from Grim an oral account of the Archbishop's 
last sayings. See 315^ for further similarities. 

312 HIS DEATH 173 

that some of those who were the earliest to write, viz. John 
of Salisbury, William, Benedict, and Fitzstephen, were in the 
Cathedral, and did not hear them ; and these would naturally 
record, as far as possible, what they heard ; and their records 
would preoccupy history. 

[311] (2) That they were a repetition of what the 
Martyr had twice said, ought not to make them improbable, 
regard being had to the special circumstances. When a man 
is nearly stunned, or on the point of death or both -his 
mind, if it works at all, naturally goes back to ruling thoughts 
and fundamental convictions : and those of the dying man 
might well be " death," " Lord," " liberty of the Church." 
His " Lord " suffered " death " for him and he was prepared 
to suffer " death " for his " Lord," a feudal as well as natural 
gratitude. " Liberty " must come through the shedding of 
blood : that was a knightly as well as a priestly thought : 
For " the Church," for Christ's body, for the oppressed every- 
where, but especially in England, and most especially (as 
he might think) in Canterbury for the protection of the 
Church against brute force and greed such as he identified 
with De Broc, that " son of perdition " he was " prepared 
to die." This preparation had been coming on him during 
years of conflict and exile ; now it had come, and was con- 
summated. Mechanically, when the battered brain was 
almost refusing to act, the tongue might be just able to 
repeat " in a low tone," as Grim says the resolution of the 
heart of this true " knight " of Christ : " for Him and His 
Church I am prepared to die." 2 

[312] (3) The fact that these really uttered words are 
not apparently so saintly as the words ascribed to St. 
Thomas by Fitzstephen alone, is in reality a condemnation of 
the historical accuracy of the latter. We have seen, at every 

2 Note Grim's distinction between what was said before, "in quite audible 
words," and this, which is " in a low tone." No other writer makes this distinction 
between the Archbishop's various utterances : and it has a savour of veracity. 


stage of our narrative, that many of the narrators cannot be 
trusted as to any detail that tends to assimilate the Martyr to 
the Saviour. Now the words assigned by Fitzstephen to the 
Archbishop are precisely those assigned by Luke to Jesus as 
His last utterance on the cross. Had they been historical, 
would they not have been eagerly caught at and repeated 
by the other historians ? 

[313] It might also be justly urged (as has been sug- 
gested above) that these words, alone, without some words 
implying death for a cause death for liberty to the enslaved, 
death for peace to the harassed, death for protection to the 
oppressed are not true to the Martyr's nature, because 
they do not represent the active, aggressive, and knightly 
kind of sanctity to which alone he can lay claim. But the 
importance of this consideration must not be allowed to 
overshadow the other, which is quite distinct, and which is 
based on a fundamental rule of historical criticism : When 
a plausible statement, attractive to contemporary readers and to 
posterity, is made by one alone of a number of writers, it is to 
be rejected. 

[314] In the present instance, beside these excellent 
reasons for not preferring Fitzstephen's statement to Grim's, 
we have others also, namely that (4) Grim was present and 
distinctly affirms that the Archbishop uttered the words "in 
a low tone," (5) that his narrative of the Martyrdom is 
generally, as far as we can judge, veracious, admitting little 
or nothing of inaccurate detail under the bias of inference, or 
the Fitness of Things. 



I. The different accounts 

[315] (i) (Grim) But in all this the illustrious martyr 
exhibited an incredible steadfastness. Neither with hand 
nor with cloak did he attempt as human frailty might 
attempt to arrest the fatal stroke. Moreover, when struck, he 
uttered no word, gave forth no cry, or groan, or any sound that 
might betoken any pain whatever. But he held immovable 
the head that he had inclined to meet the unsheathed swords 
until, besprinkled with a confused mass of brain and blood, 
as though stooping forward to pray, he laid his body on the 
pavement, and his spirit safe in Abraham's bosom. 1 . . . And 

[315] (i) (Grim) Sed in his omnibus incredibilis constantiae virtutem ex- 
hibens martyr insignis nee manum nee vestem, ut est infirmitatis humanae, 
opposuit percussori, nee percussus verbum protulit, nee clamorem edidit, non 
gemitum, non sonum cujuscunque doloris indicem ; sed caput quod inclinaverat 
gladiis evaginatis immobile tenuit, donee confusus sanguine et cerebro, tanquam 
ad orandum pronus, in pavimento corpus, in sinum Abrahae spiritum, collocavit. 1 

1 [315#] The first part of this (" Sed in his omnibus . . . immobile tenuit 
donee") closely resembles John's account below ("in his omnibus cruciatibus 
. . . donee consummaretur tenebat immobile "). 

The second part resembles a passage in an anonymous letter written to the 
Pope immediately (as it appears) after the Martyrdom by one who (Mat. vii. 437) 
"came to Canterbury that day." After giving the Archbishop's last words it 
says : " et porrectum caput spiculatori porrexit feriundum, qui mox, amputata ad 
modum coronae cervice (ed. suggests " amputate . . . vertice ") confusis sanguine 
commixtum et cerebro, tanquam ad orandum pronus in pavimento corpus, in 
sinum Abrahae spiritum collocavit." 

The question arises, (i) Did Grim borrow from both these writers, or (2) did 


thus the Priest of God, migrating from this world, was born 
in heaven, on the fourth day before the Kalends of January, 
in the year from the Incarnation of our Lord and Saviour 
1 17 1. 2 

[316] (2) (Fitzstephen) And indeed as formerly, when 
Christ was suffering in His own body, so too when He was 
again suffering in the person of His soldier Thomas the 
sun averted its eyes, and veiled the day with darkness, not to 
behold this crime ; and " a dreadful storm-cloud knit the 
brow of heaven " ; sudden and swift fell the sleet ; there was 
thunder from heaven. After this, there shot forth a great 
redness of the air, in token of the blood just shed, and in 
horror of the outrage. . . . 

[317] [The sons slew their father in the womb of their 
mother. Verily in the flowers of the Church neither lilies 
nor roses are wanting ; and in the Passion of St. Thomas 
there is drawn forth, along with the cruel sword's point, both 
the brain shining white and the blood blushing red. . . . 
Archbishop and Contender in the lists [of God's soldiers], 
Confessor and Martyr, about to receive from the Lord a stole 

. . . Itaque Dei sacerdos, a saeculo migrans, coelis nascitur, quarto calendas 
Januarii, anno ab incarnatione Domini ac Salvatoris nostri MCLXXI. 2 

[316] (2) (Fitzstephen) Et quidem, sicut quondam Christo patiente in proprio 
corpore, ita et eodem patiente in milite suo Thoma, avertit sol oculos, obtenebravit 
diem, ne videret seel us hoc, et "horrida tempestas caelum contraxit," subitae 
ruerunt imbres, intonuit de caelo. Postea rubor aeris magnus emicuit, in effusi 
sanguinis signum, in flagitii horrorem. . . . 

[317] [Occiderunt filii patrem in utero matris suae. Equidem floribus ecclesiae 
nee lilia desunt nee rosae, et in beati Thomae Passione cum saevo extrahitur 
mucrone et cerebrum candens et sanguis rubens. . . . Archiepiscopus et 
Agonista, Confessor et Martyr, duplicem stolam a Domino percepturus, et de 

they come to him for the facts which they embodied, in their several letters, 
nearly in the words in which Grim related them ? 

The latter is the more probable supposition. But it is also possible that Grim, 
publishing his record long after John's had become authoritative, may have been 
influenced verbally by John, although he had himself supplied the facts to John. 

2 2Qth Dec. 1171 (an error for 1170). 

319 HIS DEATH 177 

of twofold colour white and bright because of his pure 
administration of his archiepiscopate, and purple because of 
the happy consummation of his martyrdom. . . , 3 ] 

[318] Concerning the time of the Passion of St. Thomas 
the Martyr, some one has published this couplet : 

" The year was the one thousand one hundred and seventy 
First, 4 when the First [in our Church], Thomas, fell by the sword." 

[319] (3) (John) But in all these tortures, 5 the Martyr 
such was his unconquerable spirit and admirable steadfast- 
ness sent forth no word or cry ; uttered no groan ; neither 
with arm nor with garment attempted to arrest a blow, but held 
his head, which he had inclined and exposed to their swords, 
immovable till his consummation. Finally, falling forward 
to the earth, with body straight, he moved neither hand nor 
foot, when the assassins insultingly declared that by the de- 
struction of a traitor they had restored peace to their country. 6 

archiepiscopio fideliter administrate candidam, et de martyrio feliciter consummate 
purpuream. . . . 3 ] 

[318] De tempore passionis sancti Thomae martyris quidam hoc distichon 
edidit : 

' ' Annus millenus centenus septuagenus 
Et primus, 4 Primas quo cadit ense Thomas." 

[319] (3) (John) Sed in his omnibus 5 cruciatibus invicti animi et admirandae 
constantiae martyr non verbum vel clamorem emisit, non edidit gemitum, nee 
brachium aut vestem opposuit ferienti, sed caput, quod inclinatum gladiis 
exposuerat, donee consummaretur, tenebat immobile. Denique in terram procidens 
recto corpore, non pedem movit aut manum, sicariis insultantibus se in strage 
proditoris pacem patriae reddidisse. " 6 

3 The bracketed words are omitted by the MS. called J. They are probably 
an addition made by the author or editor. The whole passage is highly poetical. 
The words "horrida . . . contraxit" are from Horace, Epodes xiii. I. For the 
passage about "roses and lilies," see 264, 285, 331, 334. For the "womb 
of the mother," see 2280, 294a. 

For Fitzstephgn's description of the Archbishop's calmness in meeting death, 
see 269. 

* An error for 1170. " Primas" is " Primate " : there is a play on the two 
similar words. " Primus " is perhaps intentionally emphasized. See 346. 

5 " But in all these . . . till his." See note on Grim's account, with which 
this closely agrees (315). 

6 This writer mentions no date for the martyrdom. 

VOL. I 12 


[320] (4) (William) 7 But a clerk, sharing the suffering 
of his father [in God] out of affection, one that was by birth 
an Englishman, Edward by name, throwing his arm in the 
way, among the strokes 8 [that fell on the Archbishop] received 
a stroke ; and, fearing for himself wounds following on wound, 
and worse following on bad, he turned aside 9 to the nearest 
altar (or, to an altar that was very near), whither many of 
the brethren had taken refuge together, fearing for their 

[321] He did not [then] know from whom he had 
suffered the blow. 10 But concerning the author of the wound, 
we form a conjecture on these grounds, namely, that William 
[de Traci] when his partners were relating at Saltwood 
Castle their several exploits against the Martyr and boasting 

[320] (4) (William) 7 Clericus autem, pro affectu patri compatiens, Anglicus 
natu Edwardus nomine, brachio suo objecto ictum inter ictus 8 excepit ; timensque 
sibi post vulnus vulnera, post gravia graviora, ad altare proximum divertit, 8 quo 
plures ex fratribus vitae metuentes confugerant. 

[321] Nesciens a quo pertulisset ictum. 10 Sed de auctore vulneris inde 
conjicimus, quod Willelmus, cooperatoribus suis apud castrum Saltwede quantum 

7 This appears to be of the nature of an Appendix. The writer's narrative, 
up to this point, has described (l) the first blow (which it assigns to Fitzurse), 
mentions (2) Fitzurse's cry "Strike ! Strike !" then (3) the general flight, and 
(4) the "dashing out (excusserunt) " of the brains. But it has made no mention 
of Tracy and the rest, or of any blows but the first : and it was also silent about 
Grim. These omissions the Appendix supplies. 

8 " Ictum inter ictus (?)," "one blow among (many) blows (?)," or is " inter 
ictus" a mistake for " interjectus," i.e. "interposing"? It could hardly be 
intended to mean "stroke on stroke," since that is expressed, later on, by "post 
vulnus vulnera." 

9 " Turns aside, etc." This is probably not true. ( I ) Grim does not mention 
it : (2) Grim mentions the successive blows and the last words of the Archbishop, 
("uttered in a low tone") with a minuteness and apparent accuracy that suggest 
that he was close to the Archbishop (see 314). 

10 " He did not know." Perhaps William means " not knowing at the time," 
which is the natural meaning of " nesciens." But, in any case, Grim (contradicting 
William) says that the knight who cut off his arm was the one addressed by the 
Archbishop as " Reinald." 



of their villainy said also that he had cut off the arm of 
John of Salisbury. 11 

[322] But moreover one of the brethren, standing by his 
father [in God], face to face with [his enemies], suffered a 
blow. But the prayer of the good Shepherd imitating the 
true Shepherd who said, " If ye seek me, let these go their 
way," brought it to pass that he alone fell, and the flock 
suffered no loss. Consequently, he was [but] smitten with 
the flat of the sword and brought back [from it nothing 
worse than] a stunned head. 12 

[323] By this time the wearied knees of the Martyr 
were tottering ; by this time his house of clay was verging 
to its fall. In the midst of the smiting, his mind prays in 
silence ; he sings psalms with his mind, psalms with his 
spirit also ; the voice was not audible to the outer ear. But 
he is smitten with their swords like sheep ; no murmur is 

quisque saevisset in martyrem refer en tibus, scelusque suum jactantibus, dixerit 
etiam se brachium Joannis Saresberiensis praecidisse. 11 

[322] Sed et unus ex fratribus circa patrem studio compassionis obversatus, 
ictum pertulit. Verum oratio boni pastoris verum Pastorem imitantis dicentem, 
" Si me quaeritis, sinite hos abire," obtinuit ut grege non diminuto ipse solus 
occumberet. Unde piano gladio percussus caput attonitum reportavit. 12 

[323] Jam genua martyris effoeta lababant, jam domus lutea vergebat in casum. 
Inter caedendum mens in silentio orat ; psallit mente, psallit et spiritu ; vox 
exterius non auditur. Sed caeditur gladiis more bidentium ; non murmur resonat, 

11 This report of a boast of Tracy's depends on hearsay, and probably late 
hearsay, and counts for very little against Grim's evidence that Fitzurse was the 
man. See 245- Note also that Garnier's words on the subject (287) might 
mean that Tracy exultingly said that "John of Salisbury had his arm cut off" 
not that Tracy ciit it off. Such a saying might be quoted, originally, simply to 
shew that one of the knights had confused Grim with John. It would be an easy 
transition to quote it as shewing that this knight had also done the deed. 

William himself speaks of this as only a " conjecture." 

12 The only mention of a blow with ' ' the flat of the sword, " in the other writers, 
is made by Fitzstephen. But he says that it was the Archbishop who was thus struck. 

It is possible that William's story about " the flat of the sword" is a confused 
(or perverted) account of what happened to Grim. William is singularly reticent 
about Grim even in the Appendix in which he makes mention of him. The other 
writers generally say that Grim's arm was ' ' nearly severed. " William does not. 
He implies a wound ; but he does not mention even that. 


heard, no complaining ; but in his silent heart his mind, 
conscious of right, preserves its patience. 13 But when the 
Martyr was at last falling, or rather lying, 14 on the stone 
pavement, one of the murderers, continuing the assault, 
dashed his sword's point against him : but the blade leapt 
apart [broken], the Lord thereby presignifying that in the 
Martyr's blood the Church was triumphing, and overcoming 
malice. . . . 

[324] Not even yet was [? their] impiety satisfied, for 
as [? the] other four rushed in [? out] 15 , one, repeating the 

non querimonia ; sed corde tacito mens bene conscia conservat patientiam. 13 Unus 
autem ex carnificibus jam cadentem vel jacentem 14 martyrem prosecutus lapideo 
pavimento mucronem incussit ; sed acie dissiliente praesignabat Dominus in 
sanguine martyris ecclesiam triumphare, malitiam superare. . . . 

[324] Necdum saturabatur impietas, nam quatuor aliis irrumpentibus, 15 unus, 

13 [323#] The words "more bidentium | Non murmur resonat, non queri- 
monia" are in the Asclepiad metre. The italicized line will be found in Herbert 
below. The insertion of " in " would reduce to Asclepiad metre the words : " Sed 
corde (in) tacito mens bene conscia | Conservat patientiam." In 128 Fitzstephen 
has "Non murmur edidit, non querimoniam. " 

14 The phrase suggests that William was familiar with the traditional and 
ambiguous " procumbens " above mentioned (2700), and that he is here correcting 
it : " falling, or rather, lying." 

15 [324] "Rushed in." The Editor suggests " erumpentibus, rushed out." 
Then the meaning will be, " When the other four murderers rushed out, one of them 
(i.e. one of the five murderers, the clerk, Hugh) proceeded to outrage the body." 

But if we are to retain " irrumpentibus," the meaning must be, " Not even 
yet was Impiety satisfied ; for four others rushed in, and one, repeating the crime 
[of the first four] pierced the brains with his sword's point. But the Martyr 
[being now in Paradise] triumphing over the sword's point of the former 
murderers, [and consequently unmoved by this outrage from the later group of 
murderers] lay still. ..." This represents a tradition that finds some 
support in Gamier, viz. that "four other knights waited outside in the cloisters." 
Stanley gives Foss's Judges, i. 243 as his authority for the statement that one 
of these four was called Fitzranulph. 

But neither Gamier nor any one else of our authorities asserts that these four 
knights entered the Cathedral. Possibly William has misinterpreted some words 
such as (Gamier, 5641) "And that Hugh Malclerc who entered after them [i.e. 
after the first four knights]." This might be confused with "And that Hugh 
Malclerc and those who entered after them," i.e. the second group of knights 
whom he brought into the Cathedral. 

325 HIS DEATH 181 

crime, and assailing the dead in hostile fashion with threats, 16 
fixed his sword's point deep in the empty top ir [of the head]. 
But the Martyr, triumphing [in Paradise] over the sword's 
point of the former murderers, [now] after the manner of one 
prostrated in prayer, lay still unmoved. 

Now the Passion of the Primate 18 and Legate in the 
church and for the Church took place on the fourth day 
before the Kalends of January. . . . 

[325] (5) (Benedict). . . . Now the Passion of the 
excellent Champion of God, Thomas, Archbishop of Canter- 
bury, Primate of all England, and Legate of the Apostolic 
See, took place in the one thousand eleven hundred and 
seventieth year from the Incarnation of the Lord, in the 
fifty -third year of his own age, on the fourth day before 
the Kalends of January, the third day of the week, about 
the eleventh hour. 19 

scelus renovans, et minis 16 hostiliter funus infestans, vacuo vertice 17 mucronem 
infixit. Verum martyr, de priorum carnificum mucrone triumphans, ad modum 
prostrati in oratione jacebat immotus. . . . 

Passus est autem quarto Kalendas Januarii Primas 18 et Legatus, in ecclesia 
et pro ecclesia. . . . 

[325] (5) (Benedict). . . . Passus est autem egregius Dei athleta Thomas, 
Cantuariensis archiepiscopus, totius Angliae Primas, et apostolicae sedis Legatus, 
anno ab incarnatione Domini millesimo centesimo septuagesimo, vitae vero ipsius 
anno quinquagesimo tertio, quarto calendas Januarii, feria tertia, hora quasi 
undecima. 19 

16 "With threats." But "minis" is probably a mistake for "nimis," i.e. 
"with cruelty unpardonable even in an enemy." The Quadrilogus has "nimis," 
and the Editor's note there is (Mat. iv. 399) "This is printed minis in vol. i. 
p. 135, perhaps wrongly." 

17 "Vertex," in poetry, means sometimes "head." But here it seems to 
mean "top (of the head)." 

18 [324^] "Primate." Why does William, only here, use this word, else- 
where using "archiepiscopus," etc.? Probably because tradition connected the 
date of the death with the punning distich quoted above (about " Primas " and 
"primo") by Fitzstephen. In that distich the year was given (wrongly) as 1171. 
William gives no year. 

19 This date is correct, 1 170. " The eleventh hour " is 5 P.M. On " Primas " 
see 324A 


[326] (6) (Herbert). . . . For in this severing of the 
top of the head, 20 in this severing of the crown, . . . when 
the concavity 21 of the head, with the crown of unction, was 
being separated from the head . . . there was neither 
murmur nor complaining. . . . 22 And when these gladiators, 
on this side and on that, struck and struck again, hastening 
his death, the sword of one of these gladiators was broken 
on the concavity of the head. . . . 23 For, until the whole 
consummation was made and the oblation entirely com- 
pleted, he remained immovable, in one set form, with 
composure of body corresponding to the calm of his 
mind ; and, with knees bent and hands joined (as we said 
above) so steadfastly did he keep his neck stretched out 
and his head exposed [to the stroke], that the very arrange- 
ment of his body was in itself a prayer to the Lord. . . . 
Against the violence of the strokes of those who fell upon 
him he opposed nothing, interposed nothing ; not one of 
his limbs did he draw down, not one did he draw, 24 or 
draw back ; his clasped hands he does not loose asunder, 
neither this way nor that way does he incline his head. . . . 

[326] (6) (Herbert). . . . Nam ... in hac decalvatione, 20 in decoronatione 
hac . . . ubi testa 21 capitis cum corona unctionis separator a capite . . . nee 
murmur resonat nee querimonia. . . . ffl Et cum gladiatores hinc inde percuterent 
et repercuterent, mortem viri accelerantes, super testam capitis unius gladiatorum 
gladius frangitur. . . . 23 Nam donee consummaretur totum et inchoata perficeretur 
oblatio, sic immobiliter, sic uniformiter, et sicut aequanimiter, sic aequaliter, flexis 
genibus, junctis (ut diximus) manibus, collum semper extendit et caput exposuit, 
ut ipsa corporis compositio oraret Dominum. . . . Contra ictuum super se 
venientium vim nil opponit, nil objicit, de membris suis nullum subtrahit, nullum 
trahit M vel retrahit, non manus conjunctas dissolvit, non hac vel iliac inclinat 
caput. . . . 

20 "Severing, etc." See 2760. 

21 " Concavity (testa) " seems used here for "brain-pan." 

22 "Nee . . . querimonia," an Asclepiad line, see 3230. 

23 No other writer makes this extraordinary statement. Herbert proceeds 
to enlarge on the strength of this " bone" of "the second Adam," against which 
the sword of Satan is broken. 

24 The style is so astonishingly diffuse, even for Herbert, that possibly there 
is some corruption. 

328 HIS DEATH 183 

[327] So, after it (i.e. the body) had been unclothed, 
after they received the body of Thomas [duly] washed. . . . 25 
Now there was in the crypt of the church a new tomb, 
hewn out of a rock 26 many days before, ... in which no 
man as yet had been placed. 27 And . . . they placed the 
body of Thomas in this new tomb which had been hewn out 
of the rock, in the year after the Incarnation of the Lord 
one thousand one hundred and seventy-one, 28 but about the 
fifty-third of his own life. 

[328] (7) (Anon. I.) Now his Passion took place in the 
one thousand one hundred and seventy-first [year] after the 
Incarnation of the Lord, on the fifth day from the birthday 
of the Lord, and on the third day of the week. 29 

(8) (Anon. II.) Omits this, and adds a long discourse on 
the Archbishop's virtues, and on his eminence as a martyr. 

[327] Igitur postquam exutum fuit, postquam lotum 26 acceperant corpus 
Thomae. . . . Erat autem in crypta ecclesiae monumentum novum, excisum de 
petra 26 a multis diebus, ... in quo nondum quisquam positus fuerat. 27 Et 
. . . posuerunt corpus Thomae in hoc monumento novo quod erat excisum de 
petra, anno ab incarnatione Domini millesimo centesimo septuagesimo primo, 28 
vitae vero ipsius anno circiter quinquagesimo tertio. 

[328] (7) (Anon. I.) Passus est autem ab incarnatione Domini millesimo 
centesimo septuagesimo primo, quinto die a nativitate Domini, feria vero tertia. 29 

(8) (Anon. II.) Omits this. 

25 "Washed." It was not washed (407). 

26 Matth. xxvii. 60. No other writer describes the sarcophagus in these 
terms. But Herbert wishes to conform his language to that of Scripture. For 
the same reason, perhaps, he drops the terms "athleta," " praesul," "Martyr," 
etc., and uses "Thomas" to correspond to the Scriptural "Jesus." 

27 John xix. 41. 

28 An error, as above, 1171 for 1170. 

29 An error, as above, 1171 for 1170. We should call 29 Dec. \hzfourth 
day after Christmas day, but Anon. I. follows the Latin or inclusive method of 
reckoning. The writer proceeds to enumerate the memorable Tuesdays (feria 
tertia) in the Archbishop's life, describes the burial in three sentences, mentions 
miracles in one, and so concludes. 

But the Paris MS. adds " The following is found in another legend (legenda) '' 
and proceeds to quote "Quis quod sequitur," (220) John of Salisbury's acco 
of what followed the death. Then comes a collection of miraculous stories f 


(9) (Anon. IV.) Omits this, and adds a brief exhortation 
to imitate the Martyr. 

[329] (10) (Anon. V.) Omits this, and after describing 
the binding up of the head, and the collecting of the blood 
and brains by the monks continues thus : ' 

" Moreover, as I have heard from the veracious report of 
men, the body, lifting itself up [after being] long dead, signed 
both itself and them that stood by with the sign of the cross, 
and again fell flat to the ground. Then the monks, taking 
off his garments . . . found haircloth. . . . There was also 
found ... a letter . . . about his imminent death. Mean- 
while, as we have again heard on true report, a blind man, 
who had been of his household, running up, received sight 
in the blood of the murdered man, by touching his eyes 
[with it]." 30 

[330] (n) (Anon. X.) In all [this], the Martyr such 
was his unconquerable spirit 31 and admirable steadfastness, 
neither uttered word nor gave forth groan ; neither arm nor 
garment did he oppose to the smiter : but he held immov- 
able his head (which he had inclined and exposed to the 
sword's stroke), and at length, falling forward on the ground, 
with body straightened, as though prostrated in prayer, he 

(9) (Anon. IV.) Omits this. 

[329] (10) (Anon. V.) Etiam, sicut veridica hominum relatione didici, corpus 
diu mortuum se levans, signo crucis vivificae et se et astantes consignavit, rursusque 
ad terram concidit. Dehinc monachi vestes ejusdem auferentes . . . cilicium 
invenerunt. ..." Inventae sunt etiam sub eo litterae . . . de instante ejus morte. 
Interea sicut iterum veraciter percepimus, caecus quidam, qui de sua familia 
fuerat, accurrens, in sanguine occisi, oculos proprios tangens, visum recepit." 30 

[330] (n) (Anon. X.) In omnibus, invictus 31 animi et admirabilis constantiae 
martyr nee verbum protulit nee edidit gemitum, non brachium aut vestem opposuit 
ferienti, sed caput (quod inclinatum gladio exposuerat) tenebat immobile, et 
tandem in terra procidens, recto corpore, quasi in oratione prostratus, non pedem 

30 I have altered the editor's punctuation. The author proceeds to relate a 
aculous cure of a dumb man (433) and other marvels. 

31 This closely resembles John of Salisbury and Grim, but with omissions and 
itions. For example, " In omnibus" (Grim "in his omnibus," John 

bus cruciatibus") is hardly Latin. 

332 HIS DEATH 185 

moved neither hand nor foot. 32 And thus the Champion of 
God, migrating from this world, entered heaven as a con- 
queror on the fourth day before the Kalends of January. 33 
Nor did it suffice to the assassins to perpetrate this shameful 
sin unless besides horrible to relate they cast forth the 
brains of the deceased Archbishop with their deadly swords. 34 

[331] (12) (Gamier) Whoso might then have seen the 
blood and the brain fall, And lie, one with the other, on the 
pavement, Might have bethought him of the rose and the 
lily : For then would he have seen the blood keeping its red 
colour in the white brain, The brain likewise keeping its 
white colour in the red blood 35 (11. 5546-50). . . . 

[332] For the Church of the North, and in the aisle of 
the North, 36 And facing the North did St. Thomas suffer 
death (11. 5561-2). . . . For the good crowned [Martyr], in 
behalf of his crowned people (?), Gave his own crown, un- 
armed against the armed. Full of the spirit on his side was 

movit nee manum ; 32 et sic Dei athleta, a saeculo migrans, quarto kalendas 

Januarii ^ caelos victor introivit. Nee suffecit percussoribus tantum flagitium 

perpetrasse, nisi etiam quod dictu horribile est funestis gladiis jam defuncti 

praesulis [cerebrum] ejicerent. 3 * 

[331] Qui dune veist le sane et le cervel [332] Pur 1'iglise del Nort, et el ele del 

chair, Nort,36 

Et sur le pavement 1'un od 1'autre gesir, E vers le Nort turnez, suffri sainz Thomas 

De rose et de lilie 1'i poist sovenir : mort : 

Car dune veist le sane el blanc cervel rogir, . . . . . 

Le cervel ensement el vermeil sane blanchir. 33 Kar 15 buens coronez pur sa gent coronee, 

Sa corone en dona, as armez desarmee, 
Mult fu esperitals de sa part la meslee 

32 The words " in terra procidens nee manum " are in John (319), with the 
exception of "quasi in oratione prostratus." Benedict has (273) "recto corpore 
quasi ad orationem prostratus in terram corruit." 

33 Comp. Grim (315) " Itaque Dei sacerdos, a saeculo migrans, coelis nascitur, 
quarto, etc." But, whereas Grim inserts the year of the martyrdom (1171, 
wrongly), this author omits it here. He mentions 1170, a little before, rightly, 
as the year of the Archbishop's return from exile. 

34 The words "nee suffecit . . . ejicerent" are (substantially and more 
fully) in John and Benedict. The author concludes with accounts of miracle5 
mostly taken from Benedict's book (see 439). 

35 Gamier describes a contrast, "red in white,, white in red" : Grim and t 
Saga, a blending, "the brain reddening from the blood, the blood whiten' 
from the brain." 36 "The North." See 149. 


the conflict, When he made of his crown a shield against the 
sword 37 (11. 561 1-14). . . . 

[333] Since now in these late times a new martyr is 
given you, Gamier the clerk, native of Pont Saint Maxence, 
Would have you certified of the time of the martyrdom : It 
was one thousand one hundred and seventy years Reckoned 
from the time when God was incarnate in the Virgin 
(11. 5781-5). 

[334] (13) (The Saga) In such manner is beautified the 
bright countenance of this martyr and confessor that the 
blood brightened from the brain and the brain reddened from 
the blood, as if rose and lily were beautifully blended together. 

[335] (i.) (Stanley) " As the murderers left the cathedral, 
a tremendous storm of thunder and rain burst over Canterbury, 
and the night fell in thick darkness upon the scene of the 
dreadful deed. The crowd was every instant increased by 
the multitudes flocking in from the town. ... At last, 
however, the cathedral was cleared, and the gates shut ; and 
for a time the body lay entirely deserted. It was not till the 
night had quite closed in, that Osbert, the chamberlain of 
the Archbishop, entering with a light, found the corpse lying 
on its face. . . . 

[336] (ii.) (Tennyson) [Storm bursts. flashes of light- 
ning thro 1 the Cathedral. . . . ROSAMUND seen kneeling by the body of 

Quant fist de sa corone escu cuntre 1'espee. 37 Vus voelt fere del tens del martire acertez : 

Mil am cent et seissante et dis tut acuntez 

[333] Pur 90 k'or tart vus est novels martirs I out, des que Deus fu en Virgine encharnez. 
donez, 11. 5546-50 . . . 5561-2 . . . 5611-4 . . . 5781-5. 

Guarniers Ii clerc, del Punt sainte mescence nez, 

37 This play on "the crown" (which might be paralleled by others from 

Herbert, etc.) is inserted to show how early a misunderstanding might arise as 

to the word. It has been questioned in modern times whether " Becket's Crown " 

leans sometimes a part of Canterbury Cathedral or the bone relic. Stanley 

285, Note F, ii.) refers to Eadmer's Hist. Nov. ii. p. 92 as saying that 

selm, having had a place assigned to him in a Roman Council, was given a 

\in the crown: "in corona sedes itti posita est, qui locus non obscuri honoris 

\li conventu solet haberi." 

340 HIS DEATH 187 

8 2. Was the body "entirely deserted" ? 

[337] Stanley's words about the night falling " in thick 
darkness," about the body being " entirely deserted," and the 
Chamberlain "entering with a light," give the reader the 
impression that, when the Archbishop fell, he was left quite 
alone, and in absolute darkness, till Osbert arrived. 

But the facts are these. Benedict (325) says that the 
martyrdom took place " about the eleventh hour," i.e. 5 P.M., 
of 29 Dec. Suppose 29 Dec. to correspond to our 3 or 4 
Jan. : yet, even then, the sun would have set by 4 P.M., so 
that it would be as dark as night by 5 P.M., at all events 
inside a cathedral. Lights must have been kindled there 
long before. What Fitzstephen says is, "diu quidem ibi 
jacuit fere solus, et derelictus a clericis, et monachis, et 
caeteris cunctis, nee etiam adhuc ablato (Ed. suggests, no 
doubt rightly, adlato) lumine ad sanctas ejus exsequias" 

[338] In other words, the body was not left " entirely 
alone" but probably under the charge of the servants of the 
Minster in St. Benedict's chapel, lighted, as it had been 
for the last hour or more, dimly, no doubt, but in the usual 
way while the monks took counsel, under the presidency 
of Prior Odo (who was not perhaps at that time a strong 
partisan of the Archbishop), as to what should be done. 
Meantime there was delay in sending " [a] light for the holy 
exsequies" i.e. a taper, or tapers, to be lighted and placed 
round the body. 

[339] This paragraph is omitted by the MS. called J. 
No doubt the Editor, or Author, when inserting it, intended 
to blame the monks for not detaching some of their own 
number to remain at once with the body. But even he does 
not say that the body was left " entirely alone." It was lef 
" almost alone," perhaps guarded by some half dozen me 

[340] As regards Osbert the Chamberlain, Fitzstep 1 


says simply that " he cut a strip from his shirt with a small 
knife in order to bind up the remnant of the half-severed 
head." This leaves it open to suppose that Osbert was one 
of those who remained from the beginning with the body. 
Stanley quotes " Grandison iv. I " for his statement about 
" Osbert . . . entering with a light." Grandison's name seldom 
occurs elsewhere among Stanley's references, and then only 
to support doubtful or unimportant statements. It is natural 
to ask whether Grandison, a writer of the I4th century, has 
not derived his information from Fitzstephen, and amplified 
it by his own inference. 

3. Was there " a tremendous storm " ? 

[341] Almost certainly there was no storm, or, at all 
events, no tremendous storm. This conclusion is based on 
the following reasons. 

(i) The only evidence for it is Fitzstephen. Yet it was 
a phenomenon that all present must have noted, and all 
the Archbishop's friends must have regarded as a sign of 
the wrath of heaven. If " flashes of lightning " played, as 
Tennyson's stage-direction says, " thro' the Cathedral," why 
did not Grim, Benedict, and William see them, and take 
note of them ? The omission of all notice of the storm by 
the other writers is, under the circumstances (313), fatal to 
its historical truth. Even the poet Gamier says nothing 
about it. 

[342] (2) Fitzstephen introduces his statement with the 

words, " As, when our Lord was suffering in His own body," 

referring to the miraculous darkness alleged to have happened 

during the Crucifixion " from the sixth to the ninth hour." 

That, in itself, is enough to throw suspicion on his historical 

ccuracy ; for it exhibits a mind ready to catch up any loose 

aggeration, or poetic metaphor, and to interpret it as fact 

'ause it would assimilate St. Thomas's Passion to Christ's 




[343] (3) Fitzstephen's words "the sun turned his eyes 
away" are manifest poetry, and flagrantly opposed to fact. 
If the sun sets at 4 P.M., how can he " turn his eyes away " 
at 5 P.M. ? As his words " A horrid storm-cloud veils the 
brow of heaven " are taken from Horace, so the notion of 
the averted eyes of the sun may possibly be taken from 
Virgil's words about the sun's behaviour at the death of 
Caesar, 1 or from some similar personification (for there are 
many) in Latin poetry. 

It is very natural that statements of this kind originating 
in hyperbole should be interpreted as fact. 

[344] (4) The Flores Historiarum (vol. ii. p. 84) asserts 
that in 1172 there were storms throughout the world, which 
shewed that the blood of St. Thomas " cried in thunder to 
the Lord." It is quite possible that a few years after the 
Martyrdom a statement that "this happened after St. 
Thomas's death " was changed into a tradition that " it hap- 
pened immediately after" Such confusion is all the more 
likely because instances of chronological error at this date 
are found in the Flores Historiarum (347), and our own 
authors are divided between 1170 and 1171 as the date of 
the Martyrdom. 

[345] (5) It may be added that when a tremendous 
storm does occur, three or four months afterwards, just at a 
time when the Archbishop's enemies were supposed to be 
plotting the removal of his body, Benedict chronicles it as a 
Providential interposition. 2 This gives point to the first of 
the above-mentioned considerations, which, in accordance 
with the rule previously (313) laid down, alone suffices to 
demonstrate that there was no such " tremendous storm " as 
is described by the two modern authors. 3 

1 Georg. i. 465-6. 

2 484. 

3 Stanley explains the "redness of the air," which (according to Fitzstephen) 
followed the storm, as " the red glare of an aurora borealis which, after the 


S 4. The date 

O ' 

[346] Why do all our authorities, except Benedict and 
Gamier, either omit the date, or give it incorrectly, as 1171 
instead of 1170? Perhaps the fact that, in most parts of 
England and Europe, the death (occurring on 29 Dec. 1 170) 
would not be known till 1171, and would be associated with 
1171, may have contributed to the error. But Fitzstephen 
(318) quotes a distich making the date 1171 ; and a short 
saying of that kind in verse might be more easily remembered 
and more widely circulated in England than Garnier's French 
quintet or Benedict's tradition in prose. If the author of 
the distich was a Canterbury monk, it would naturally be 
supposed to have the authority of Canterbury. It is true 
that Benedict was subsequently Prior of Canterbury, and had 
an inclination for chronological order, as may be seen from 
his Book of Miracles. On the other hand, the Preface to 
William's Book of Miracles expressly disclaims chronological 
order as superfluous ; and this, though probably written 
under William's influence, is nominally written in the name 
of the whole body of monks. Putting these facts together 
with indications that Benedict, as Prior, was not very popular 
with the monks, and that his Book of Miracles did not 
commend itself to them, we may conjecture that the 
consensus of monkish tradition might be biassed against 
Benedict's statement (though confirmed by the Frenchman 
Gamier) and in favour of " the Canterbury distich," if it may 
be so called. 

[347] Another instance of confusion of date, as regards 

stormy evening, lighted up the midnight sky. " I am not aware at what hours of 
the night, and in what circumstances, the aurora borealis may have appeared in 
the south of England. But, even though that explanation may be physically 
possible, the considerations above-mentioned require that the " redness " should 
be rejected along with the " storm." 

[345] The laws of nature may allow us to believe in it. The laws of 
evidence do not. 

347 HIS DEATH 191 

events occurring in the years 1171-3, may be found in the 
text of Matthew Paris, retained by his editor (commonly 
called Matthew of Westminster), but supplemented in the 
following extraordinary way: (i) (Editor) "In the year of 
Grace, 1173. Those who were rising in arms against the 
King were taken, the King of Scotland. . . . The King came 
to Canterbury. In a Chapter, he was absolved by the 
Convent of Canterbury. He also gave up, over the High 
Altar, those Customs 1 for which St. Thomas contended 
even to death " ; (2) (Matthew Paris) " In the year of Grace, 
1174 . . . The King, invoking the aid of St. Thomas the 
Martyr, bestowed on Canterbury Cathedral, for the finding 
of lights (i.e. for the providing of wax tapers) forty pounds 
of annual rent. On that very day, the day of the Sabbath, 
God delivered William King of Scotland into his hands." 2 
If it were not for the mention of the taking of the "King of 
Scotland," how easily might historians be induced to suppose 
that the chronicle relates two visits of King Henry to the 
tomb ! The full explanation of these errors must be left 
to chronological experts. But the obstacles in the way of 
eliciting exact historical truth from ancient records are 
vividly illustrated by the fact that, among all those of our 
Latin authorities who mention the date of Becket's Martyr- 
dom, only one gives it correctly. 

1 " Those Customs," i.e. the " customs " of Henry's predecessors on the 
throne, as set forth by him in the Constitutions of Clarendon, against which the 
Archbishop contended. " For which (pro quibus)," therefore, means " to prevent 
which," as in "a remedy for fever." 

2 Anno gratiae MCLXXIII. Capti sunt rebelles regi, rex Scotiae . . . Rex 
venit Cantuariam. In capitulo absolvitur a conventu Cantuariae. Resignat 
etiam illas consuetudines, super majus altare, pro quibus beatus Thomas decertavit 
tisque ad mortem. 

Anno gratiae MCLXXIV. . . . Rex, invocans auxilium beati Thomae mar- 
tiris, contulit ecclesiae Cantuariensi ad luminaria invenienda annui census xl. libras. 
Ipsa die scilicet sabbati tradidit Deus regem Scotiae Willelmum in manus suas. . . . 


I . A general inference 

[348] From a comparison of the narratives above given 
the first and most general conclusion is one that must be most 
unsatisfactory to all those who desire short cuts to truth. 
For it is this : that no general rule can be laid down as 
to the value of an early account as compared with a late 
one. An early account sometimes teems with falsehoods. 
A late account sometimes corrects falsehoods ; sometimes 
makes them falser and adds to their number. The value 
of a writing depends upon facts that are often very difficult 
to ascertain namely, the position and character of the 
writer, his opportunities for observation, or for collecting 
evidence from those who have observed, and his power of 
setting down what he has observed or collected, either with- 
out inferences of his own, or, at all events, in such a way as 
to allow the reader clearly to distinguish facts observed from 
facts inferred. 

| 2. An early narrative, if not from an eye-witness, mostly 
contains " lies " 

[349] The word " lies " is printed as a quotation, being 
quoted from Garnier's criticism of his own early poem on 
the Martyrdom, written within two years from its occurrence 
(36). He composed it, he says without time to insert and 

351 HIS DEATH 193 

to omit, and to temper the sweet with the bitter ; and hence 
he says that he " often lied (suvent i menti)." No doubt, 
he was honest, and he does not intend to deny his own 
honesty : still, he calls the result, in part, " lying." 

[350] The same tendency to honest, zealous, and affec- 
tionate " lying " may be illustrated from a letter written 
immediately after the murder by the Archbishop of Sens to 
the Pope. 1 Regarding the Martyr as a sacrifice, the writer 
speaks of him as " standing before the altar," " embracing 
with his hands the cross that he had been wont to bear 
before him," 2 offering himself up " between the horns of the 
altar and the cross," and lastly as " praying for his perse- 
cutors, adding also and most passionately (affectuosissime) 
supplicating that at least his household might be preserved 
unhurt." Moreover, as to what preceded, instead of saying 
that Becket refused at first to take any notice of the knights 
when they entered his presence, the writer says that "imme- 
diately on their entering they were saluted by the holy man 
but did not salute him in return." 

[351] This letter is a tissue of small inaccuracies, all 
dictated by the best of motives, affection for the dead, and a 
desire to honour his name, but still very misleading. Be- 
cause the first martyr, Stephen, prayed for the dead, there- 
fore the writer assumes that the last martyr must have done 
the same. Because the Saviour bore His cross, therefore 

1 Mat. vii. 429, footnote " The authorship of this letter is claimed for 
Herbert of Bosham by the C. C. C. MS. . . . and the same writer's later narra- 
tive (Mat. iii. 487 sq, ) has much in common with the letter." Herbert, having 
been sent abroad by Becket just before his death, might naturally be resorted to 
by the earliest messengers who were sent from the monks to carry the news to 
France that it might be forwarded to the Pope. 

2 When the Archbishop "fought with wild beasts" at Northampton, he had 
actually insisted on carrying the cross himself instead of letting it be carried, as 
usual, by his cross-bearer. The bishops remonstrated with him on his strange 
conduct, and one even tried to wrest it out of his hands. Herbert was present 
then. Did he suppose (inferring it from the messengers who reported the death) 
that the Archbishop did the same thing on the day of the Martyrdom ? 

VOL. I 13 


also did the Martyr. Because St. Thomas " sacrificed " his 
life, therefore he must have died " before the altar." 

[352] Yet the same volume that contains this letter of 
" lies," gives another, written about the same time, which 
though making no mention of the four knights except under 
the general phrase " the executioner " represents the words 
of the Archbishop with very fair accuracy. But why? 
Because the writer " came that evening to Canterbury," and, 
though not an ear -witness himself, appears from internal 
evidence (31 5a) to have had conversation with the most 
faithful of the ear-witnesses, Edward Grim. 

Far less pardonable than the errors of the Archbishop 
of Sens, or Herbert his scribe, are those of John of Salisbury. 
He was an eye-witness up to the point where he ran away ; 
nor had he the excuse of haste, since he did not write till 
three or four months after the event. 3 Yet he repeatedly 
describes the Archbishop as dying " before the altar," and, 
once, as dying " amid his fellow priests and in the hands 
of the clergy who had been caused by the uproar of 
armed murderers to flock to that stupendous and pitiable 
spectacle 4 " where accuracy would substitute, for " flock to" 
" run away from? He also imputes the outrage on the 
dead body, not to Hugh the clerk, but to the four knights. 

3. The evidence of one eye-witness is of more value than 
the concurrent testimony of many non-eye-witnesses 

[353] An admirable illustration of this is afforded by 
the evidence of Grim as to the circumstances attending the 
first of the wounds inflicted on the Archbishop. A great 
number say that the striker was Tracy, and have (for the 

3 His letter (Mat. vii. 463) speaks of "many" miracles in England and 
France. There were not "many," even in England, till Easter 1171. 

* Mat. vii. 464 "inter consacerdotes et manus religiosorum quos armatorum 
carnificum tumultus fecerat ad stupendum et miserabile spectaculum convenire." 

356 HIS DEATH 195 

present) carried the day with posterity : but Grim tells 
us that he heard the Archbishop address the striker as 
" Reinald [Fitzurse]," and his testimony is supported by 
Anon. I., a writer whom, from internal evidence, there is 
very strong reason for supposing to have been himself an 
eye-witness, or to have derived his facts from eye-witnesses. 

[354] On the supposition that Anon. I. was an eye- 
witness, another illustration may be derived from his details 
of " the striking off of the cap." He, alone of all our 
authorities, records it as part of the result of the first 
blow which inflicted a slight scalp wound. The others, if 
they mention it at all, speak of it as the result of a feigned 
sword-blow, or they describe the cap as struck off with the 
hand, or, vaguely, as cast away : Anon. I. alone gives a 
clear and definite account, putting the incident in its right 
place, and enabling us to discern how he saw, as an eye- 
witness, what others, at a distance, took to be a mere feint 
or else a blow with the flat of the sword on the shoulder. 

[355] Note that Grim is valuable to us because he is 
here recording what he saw and heard. When he ceases to 
be an eye-witness, his evidence (though he remains honest) 
may be expected to cease to be trustworthy, except so far 
as he reproduces the testimony of an eye-witness. That 
this expectation is realized will appear in the following 

4. The evidence of non-eye-witnesses is only so far valuable 
as it preserves the evidence of eye-witnesses, distinct from 
inferences and corrections made by the former 

[356] This ought to be a truism. But it is far from 
being so. Many readers suppose that an early account (and 
still more, a number of concurrent accounts, early or late) 
introducing a new detail, must always be of importance. 
But this will not be the case, if we have reason for thinking 


that the detail is a mere inference of the writer copied by 
other writers. Thus, Herbert tells us that Robert de Broc 
was the man that outraged the Archbishop's dead body ; 
and a statement coming from so authoritative a writer, 
one intimate with the Archbishop and with his friends, and 
one who took pains to collect facts while residing in England, 
might naturally seem entitled to great weight. But in 
reality it is of no weight at all, because it can be shown that 
this author frequently bases statements on inference. He 
may have confused the guide of the knights into the 
Cathedral with the guide of the knights into the Palace, 
who really was Robert de Broc. Or he may have been 
influenced by the motive that actuates the writer of the 
Saga, who naively attributes the act to the two brothers De 
Broc, on the ground (in effect) that the action is diabolical 
and that these two are pre-eminently children of the devil. 

[357] Even Grim, so accurate and trustworthy here, 
ceases sometimes to be accurate and trustworthy when he 
describes events beyond the range of his own observation. 
For example, in telling how Thomas Becket, in his youth, 
while hawking, was saved from drowning, he says that the 
falcon, catching a wild duck as it dived, was drawn under 
water by the latter, and that Thomas dismounted and leapt 
into the stream for pity of the falcon. Then, just when he 
was in danger of being drawn under a mill-wheel, the wheel 
stopped and did not move till he was drawn out. 

[358] Compare this with the account of Gamier (who 
says he heard the story from Thomas himself), and with the 
similar account of Anon. I. : Grim will be found to have given 
to the story a dignified and miraculous tinge. The truth was, 
that Thomas wished, not to save a drowning falcon, but to 
bring one back that had flown after its prey, some distance 
beyond a river, so that he was in danger of losing it. To 
recover the falcon, he rather rashly crossed a foot-bridge with 
a horse. In crossing, he tumbled in. He did not leap in. 

360 HIS DEATH 197 

The mill-wheel stood still because the miller just in time 
happened to turn off the water, not knowing that any one 
was in danger. 1 

Thus Grim himself accentuates the lessons, most import- 
ant for the students of evidence, ist, that documents 
must be weighed, not counted, 2nd, that, even in the 
same document, the weight of this or that statement must 
vary with the author's access to means of observation. 
Gamier (B9a and 1. 5836) tells us that he received informa- 
tion about St. Thomas from his sister and from those who 
had attended him from infancy. We do not know that 
Grim possessed any such information, and the facts above 
stated lead us to suppose that he did not possess it. 

5 . The evidence of a late non-eye-witness is particularly 
liable to the inferential taint. 

[359] This is antecedently natural in proportion to the 
lateness of the writer. Early non-eye-witnesses are not so 
strongly tempted as late ones to remove difficulties arising 
from discrepancies, and to interpolate or alter for purposes 
of edification. It is in later times, after controversies, that 
such temptations arise, or increase. As for eye-witnesses, 
though they are not exempt from error of inference as 
when Fitzstephen and William, from a distance, infer, as 
they seem to do, that the first blow was a mere feint yet it 
is comparatively rare (except where imposture is practised, 
or where ignorant people record scientific marvels). Often, 
they are too full of what they have seen to supplant sight 
by inference, though they may most tediously supplement it 
by moral comments. 

[360] But a late non-eye-witness, such as Herbert of 
Bosham for example, can hardly justify his writing unless 
he infers. He has to collect divergent accounts, to weigh 

1 See 397-401 for the accounts of Grim, Gamier, Anon. I. , and the Saga. 


their authority, to compare and contrast their statements, 
sometimes combining this with that, at other times reject- 
ing this while accepting that. If he gives reasons in each 
case, he is almost sure to be tedious ; if he does not, he 
is quite sure to be misleading. Not seldom he contrives 
to be both. But throughout the whole of his narrative, so 
far as it is not a mere repetition of the words of eye- 
witnesses, he must be, with or without warning, inferential. 

His inferences may deal with (i) the writing and inter- 
pretation of words ; (2) the order, and (3) application, of 
statements ; (4) the truth or falsehood of statements ; (5) 
the necessity of supplying omissions. 

6. Errors of Word 

[361] In our narrative, these are of slight importance. 
The narrators wrote too near the time of the action described 
to allow the intervention of oral tradition, or the frequent 
succession of new MSS. replacing old ones, both of which 
processes cause great perversions of words. Nevertheless, 
such errors have been shown to exist, as when Anon. X. 
represents Grim's " murderers of the flesh (carnis) " in the 
phrase " murderous dogs (canes)" We have also seen that 
possibly William, by writing " irr- " for " er-," converts a 
statement about " the four others rushing out " of the 
Cathedral, into a statement about "four others rushing into 
the Cathedral," which may explain a tradition found in 
Gamier, but in none of our Latin authorities, about " four 
other knights " following the first four in the cloisters, but 
not entering the Cathedral. 1 

1 An amusing verbal corruption is mentioned by Stanley (p. 91). "The 
words in which this act [the wounding of Grim's arm] is described in almost all 
the chronicles have given rise to a curious mistake : ' Brachium Edwardi Grim 
fere abscidit.' By running together these two words, later writers have produced 
the name of ' Grimfere.' " Stanley does not give references for this very inter- 
esting statement. 

363 HIS DEATH 199 

[362] It is in the process of translation, however, that 
verbal errors are most to be expected. If Gamier had not 
obtained evidence from eye-witnesses, coming to Canterbury 
within two or three years after the facts, we might have 
expected to find a good many corruptions arising from his 
rendering of Latin (or English) into French, and then, in 
later times, from the rendering of his French into Latin (or 
English). Even as it is, there are perhaps signs of such 
confusion. We have above noted his use of " cupel " and 
" chapel " to denote the scalp or upper part of the skull, and 
his silence about the " cap " which might also be called 
" chapel " ; and the ambiguity of the latter word may explain 
his silence. There has also been noted his use of the rather 
commonplace " bad man (hum malveis)," where Anon. I. has 
" my man (homo meus)." But these are slight matters. 
Gamier can be corrected by an abundance of other witnesses, 
so that he does not afford adequate illustration of the serious 
difficulties that may sometimes arise from an early verbal 
ambiguity in a writer who is the sole authority for what he 

[363] An amusing instance of divergence arising from 
verbal obscurity occurs in the interpretation of the well- 
known story of Queen Philippa's intercession for the 
burgesses of Calais, recorded by Froissart alone. Lingard 
contends that King Edward was not in earnest, and 
never really intended to execute the burgesses ; which is 
proved, he thinks, by the fact that (Johnes' Transl.) " the 
King gave a wink" when Sir Walter de Manny interceded. 
Every one will think that, if the King was getting up a scene 
(to intimidate the French and at the same time spare the 
burgesses), it was extremely foolish of him to spoil it all by 
that " wink." In the next place, the student will be puzzled 
by finding that the " wink," in some translators and later 
writers, makes way for various substitutes : (Berners) " the 
King wryed away from him," (Holinshed) " regarded them 


with a fell countenance" while modern writers vary between 
" winked" "ground his teeth" "changed the aspect of his 
countenance" "grinned" etc. 

[364] The facts are these. The Editio Princeps of 
Froissart (? 1495) has "Adonc gtiigna (1513 guygna) le 
roy," " the king made a sign" which suits with what follows, 
viz. " and ordered the executioner to come in." This would 
mean that he " ' made a sign ' for the executioner to be sent 
for." But Simeon Luce (1873) and Lettenhove read "se 
grigna," which would mean " grincer," " gnash," or " grin " ; 
and it is said that some MSS. add " les dens " ; others have 
" se renga." Perhaps Lingard, or Johnes, or both, read 
"cligner," "wink." 

7. Misarrangement of statements 

[365] Many instances will occur to the reader of varia- 
tions in the order of statements, and particularly as to 
the words of the Archbishop. Almost all, for example, 
differ from Grim in placing the words in which the Arch- 
bishop commends his soul to God after, whereas Grim and 
Anon. I. place them before, the first wound. A more import- 
ant instance relates to the order of the words recorded by 
William, " Reginald, I have bestowed many benefits on you, 
and do you come to me in arms ? " Why do Grim and 
Anon. I. omit them ? In substance, they resemble words 
said by Fitzstephen to have been uttered in the Palace. Ought 
they to be transposed to the Palace ? Or were they uttered 
in the Cathedral, only in a different form, better represented 
by Anon. I. (" you are my man ") ? Or is William wrong 
in omitting the words " into a church," and Benedict right 
in inserting them (" come to me into a church in arms "), so 
that the charge is, not one of ingratitude, but one of 
sacrilege ? 

[366] Again, Herbert, contradicting all the rest, repre- 

S369 HIS DEATH 201 

sents the doors of the Cathedral as shut long enough for 
the knights to knock violently at them. Is that a mis- 
statement, or a transposition to the Cathedral of a statement 
about the Palace ? It is probably the latter. So, perhaps, 
is his statement that De Broc was with the four knights in 
the Cathedral. 

[367] Transpositions of this kind may often result in 
inferences that the same event happened twice. For 
example, the Flores Historiarum describes (347) one visit of 
Henry II. to the Martyr's tomb in which he resigns the 
Customs of Clarendon, and another in the following year 
in which he gives the monks a large annual sum " to pro- 
vide lights." Both these entries are known (by abundant 
evidence) to refer to the same visit (in 1 1 74). But, if such 
evidence had been wanting, we might easily have inferred 
that two visits had been paid in two consecutive years. 

[368] Again, William records the dashing out of the 
Martyr's brains, first, as the act of all the knights in killing 
him, and then, in an Appendix, as a detailed outrage on the 
part of one person. His confused account leaves it doubtful 
whether he regards the " dashing out " as the mere result of 
the four wounds, or as a separate and deliberate mutilation : 
but in any case the Quadrilogus is misled into describing it, 
first (Benedict) as an act of malice perpetrated by a " child 
of Satan," and then as an act (William) "hostile even 
to excess (nimis hostiliter)," yet performed by one who 
(Herbert) " wondered whether he were already dead." This 
is a good instance of a very frequent error, which may be 
conveniently called The Error of Duplication. 

8. Misapplication of statements 

[369] Sometimes a statement is misapplied through 
carelessness, and especially through neglect of context. A 
hasty writer will hardly let his witness finish his sentence 


before he catches up one or two striking words, and makes 
a note of these alone, which he will afterwards expand into 
something that takes his own fancy. Thus, for example, 
when the first blow inflicted on the Archbishop had been 
erroneously supposed by Fitzstephen, and perhaps by others, 
to be a blow with the flat of the sword, William, adding his 
Appendix, in which he for the first time mentions Grim, 
gives one the impression of having said to himself, " There 
certainly was something about a blow with the flat of the 
sword. To whom could it refer? Not to Grim, for his 
arm was nearly cut off. Not certainly to the Archbishop, 
because that would be undignified. It must have referred 
to one of the monks, and I shall put it down so." 

[370] Again, with reference to the ascending and 
descending of " steps," William, if he happened to have run 
away before that took place, or if he thought that the doing 
and, as it were, undoing of an action was not to the 
purpose, might take the view that the tradition referred not 
to the " steps " of a staircase, but to the " steps " of the Arch- 
bishop, either as having come several steps to meet his 
murderers, or as planting his footsteps to meet his death at 
their hands. 

[371] Again, with reference to the " shaking off" by the 
Archbishop certainly he did "shake off," or "shake out," 
something : but so William and others seem to have 
argued " it could hardly be one of the knights. That would 
be too secular an act for a Saint. The knight, if he recoiled, 
may have done so through remorse, or through reverence, or 
to give force to his impending stroke. But what the Arch- 
bishop did was ' to shake the corner of his pallium out of 
the man's hand.' " Other instances have been given above 
(366), where the misapplication was one of place, so that 
what had been said or done in the Palace was described as 
having been said or done in the Cathedral. 

[372] One very important class of errors of this kind 

374 HIS DEATH 203 

springs from misapplying metaphor to fact But this seldom 
occurs except in passing from oral tradition, or poetic 
tradition, to prose t history ; and it requires more time 
than is allowed by the short interval between the Martyr- 
dom and the composition of most of the narratives quoted 

[373] However, it is quite possible that a metaphorical 
statement about " the sun turning away his eyes " and 
"darkening the day" may have, in part, led Fitzstephen 
(and him alone) to mention a storm as immediately follow- 
ing the Archbishop's murder ; and the " redness in the 
skies " (which he also, almost alone, mentions) may have 
originated (in part) from some poetic phrase about the 
Archbishop's blood " going up to heaven to call down flames 
of vengeance." Still more probably may we explain thus 
the legendj recorded by only one of our authorities, that 
the; Martyr's dead body arose before the High Altar, and 
blessed, and signed with the Cross, both itself and the 
monks that stood by. Such a legend was not unlikely to 
arise, expressive of the fact that the Martyr's death was 
blessed both to him and to others, bringing to himself the 
crown of Martyrdom and to the church of Canterbury 
peace and prosperity. 

[374] The statement made by some that the Martyr 
died while embracing his cross, may be in part due to the 
Fallacy of the Fitness of Things ; but it may also be an 
extension of the tradition of Herbert, who described him as 
hastening to the Cross with the Cross, and of phrases about 
his being "crucified," or "carrying his Cross." Moreover 
a tradition (146) describing the Archbishop as having seen 
himself in a vision, crucified in the very spot where he 
suffered, appears to have been confused with a vision of 
" a Man crucified," which probably meant at first " Christ 
crucified " whence it was inferred that, since Christ is 
crucified afresh in the sufferings of His martyrs, the vision 


really amounted to one of the crucifixion of the Martyr 

[375] The Saga, as being later than our other authorities, 
and also as being poetry, might be expected to afford 
instances of the misapplication of metaphor. Accordingly 
it describes a well as miraculously springing up in the crypt 
to supply the pilgrims with St. Thomas's Water. Another 
of its legends, that the stone pavement became soft as snow 
so as to receive the imprints of the Martyr's feet, is difficult 
to explain thus. To most modern minds it may seem 
hardly serious : but there seems no beauty in the story if 
the poet told it believing it to be false ; and the circum- 
stantial manner in which he refers to it afterwards indicates 
that the origin was not linguistic. " His blood did not flow 
over the floor of the church, as might seem likely it would, 
but had run together on the marble into small cups so that 
it might be easily taken up. And it is seen ever since, how 
the marble departed from its nature, whereas it grew soft 
and sank in for to receive the blood. But where blood and 
brain mingled together, it stood on the flat stone which 
remained unchanged in its nature." The Fallacy, here, is 
that of the Fitness' of Things, which makes the writer believe 
that, in order to preserve the blood of St. Thomas, it was fit 
that the stone should change its nature, as it had done also 
to preserve his footprints. 

9. Misjudgment of statements 

[376] In deciding the truth or falsehood of a statement, 
the right criterion as to fact is the credibility of the witness. 
If an all but perfectly credible witness asserts that he heard 
the Archbishop of Canterbury say, " There is no God," it is 
reasonable to believe the former as to the fact, though not 
necessarily as to such inferences as he may draw from the 
fact. The witness may have omitted to add that, before 

378 HIS DEATH 205 

those words, the Archbishop uttered others, e.g. "The fool 
hath said in his heart." 

[377] But this method of going back in the first place 
to the credibility of the witness, and of accepting one 
credible eye-witness against masses of hearsay, and of " ante- 
cedent probability " is not the popular method. In dealing 
with the lives of the great, we are often more influenced 
than we should be by the Fallacy of the Fitness of Things, 
which leads us, sometimes to hasty negations, such as, " He 
never could have said this," " This never could have 
happened," sometimes to hasty assertions, "The words 
uttered must have been these," " The affair must have 
happened thus." Hence, for example, although Benedict 
expressly declares that the body of the Martyr was not 
washed, owing to the need of haste in the burial, Herbert 
insists that it was washed (probably being dissatisfied with 
Benedict's explanation, that the washing in the Martyr's 
blood sufficed for the Martyr). Hence, also, one of the 
authorities quoted above represents the four knights as each 
striking one blow, four in all, because of the symmetry in 
this division of the four blows. 

[378] So we have seen that the Saga openly states its 
reason for assigning to the De Brocs the outrage on the 
Martyr's body to be, that the action, being devilish, was 
peculiarly suitable for these children of the devil. But 
this Fallacy is best exemplified in details assimilating St. 
Thomas to Christ. These are frequent, e.g. the " tomb hewn 
out of the rock " (mentioned by Herbert alone) ; the sun 
" turning away its eyes " and " darkening the day " (mentioned 
by Fitzstephen alone) ; l the recoil of Fitzurse (or others) from 

1 [378] Above (344), it was shown that the writer (or the writer's 
informant) may also have transferred to 1170 an account of a later storm. This, 
then, is a good exemplification of a most important rule, viz. A legend may have 
several contributory causes. This legend may have begun in ( I ) poetry. Then 
(2) the memory of an actual storm may have suggested that the metaphor 
might be literally true. Then (3) the Fitness of Things led people to conclude 


the mere presence of the Archbishop (as the Roman cohort 
recoiled and fell to the ground before Jesus). To these 
may be added, as indications of Herbert's general tendency, 
that he actually calls the retinue of the knights a " cohort," 
and describes them as armed " with swords and staves." 
Moreover, the later Quadrilogus, after describing the knights 
as meeting " under a certain tree " in order to slay " the 
Lord's Christ," goes on to say that " the tree withered away 
(as we read in the Gospels)." 2 

I O. Omissions or alterations for edification 

[379] The Fallacy of the Fitness of Things has induced 
several of our narrators to omit words and acts that appeared 
unseemly, unedifying, or impossible. 

Almost all omit Garnier's graphic statement that Fitzurse 
seized and shook the Archbishop, and that the knights tried 
to place him on Tracy's shoulders. Several writers omit the 
statement that the Archbishop "shook off" one of the 
knights and nearly threw him to the ground. This last fact 
could not, indeed, be suppressed ; for it so happened that 
Herbert, one of the latest and most authoritative writers, 
being himself of a militant disposition, emphasized this detail. 
But had it not been for Herbert, the Harmony of the Four 
Lives might have altogether omitted it. Not one, except 
Grim, who was by the Archbishop's side, tells us that he 
called Fitzurse " pander (leno)." Also, describing the inter- 
view in the Palace, John of Salisbury omits his own remon- 
strance with the Archbishop on his exasperating manner 
toward the knights, and in particular on his following them 
to the door with (apparently) provoking words. Others even 

that it must be literally true because the Martyrdom must needs have been like 
the Crucifixion. 

2 This takes place (Mat. iv. 385) when they "go out from the face of the 
King." William describes them as preparing for the slaughter under a mulberry- 
tree after they have gone out from the presence of the Archbishop. 

382 HIS DEATH 207 

change these provoking words into words of " temperate 
request," and we have seen that Stanley himself, misled by 
these writers, describes them as expressive of " entreaty " 
and " despair." 

[380] This last instance is one in which a tradition, too 
firmly rooted to be eradicated, is modified instead of being 
omitted. Similarly, we have seen that the " shaking off" of 
a knight appears in some writers simply as the " shaking 
free " of a cloak from the knight's hands ; and the recoil of 
the knight is attributed, not to the Archbishop's push but 
either to the knight's own act, stepping back for the next 
stroke, or else to motives of reverence, or remorse. 

[381] Hence is seen the fallacy of the common canons, 
that " later accounts always add," and that " additional 
picturesque details are always to be suspected." No such 
sweeping rules can be laid down. Later accounts sometimes 
condense for brevity, sometimes omit for edification. In 
each case, the nature of the writer, and the nature of the 
detail, must be considered. If the writer bears the stamp of 
first hand knowledge (or access to it), honesty, accuracy, and 
absorption in his subject, and if there are few or no signs of 
a desire to write up to controversial ends, and of a desire to 
edify the reader by pointing morals and inculcating analogies, 
then a picturesque detail, though found in only that one 
writer, may freely be accepted. Nay, more, if the addition 
be of the nature of a stumbling-block or scandal to hero- 
worshippers, then (provided that the writer is a lover of the 
hero) it may be accepted as almost demonstrably true, and 
as confirming the previously formed favourable opinion of 
the writer's honesty. 

11. Floating Tradition 

[382] No reader can have even glanced at the thirteen 
accounts of the outrage inflicted on the Martyr's body 


without perceiving that from a very early period there were 
current certain poetic moralizations on the subject that 
constituted a kind of common stock from which any writer 
of a Passion might borrow. The breaking of the sword 
against the pavement, typifying the breaking of secular 
oppression against the rock of the Church, is one of these. 
But the most striking is the comparison of the blood and 
the brains of the Martyr to the roses and lilies of the Church 
(who is both Mother and Virgin), and to the white robe of 
the Saint with the empurpled garment of the Martyr. It 
will be observed that the writers who use these metaphors 
never acknowledge from whom they have borrowed them, 
and it would be a matter of great difficulty to determine 
which, if any, of our writers originated them. The differences 
between Gamier and Grim indicate that both these writers 
borrowed from some common tradition, the former (like 
Fitzstephen) taking the metaphor to be strictly that of a 
nosegay ("white in red, and red in white") while Grim, 
having seen the actual fact, that one was mixed tuith the 
other, uses language that is slightly incongruous with the 
metaphor of flowers, describing the brains as reddened from 
the blood and the blood as whitened from the brains. 

[383] We are on safer ground when we cdme to such a 
passage as this, found in several of our narratives, " Nor did 
it suffice to these murderers, etc. etc., to profane, etc. etc., 
unless they also, etc. etc., and cast out the brains, scattering 
them on the pavement." Bearing in mind (i) the rhetorical 
turn of this sentence, (2) the fact that many of the writers 
who insert it are indifferent composers, (3) that John of 
Salisbury had a very high reputation among all his con- 
temporaries for literary composition, (4) that his biography 
is mentioned with praise by many of the later biographers of 
St. Thomas, (5) that he used a sentence very similar to the 
above, in a letter written to a French Bishop in 1171 and 
subsequently embodied in his biography, which is believed 



also to be very early we are almost certainly justified in 
saying that the writers who use that or a similar sentence 
took it from John's narrative. 

[384] In all these cases, the reader will find no sense 
of literary copyright. The writers are absorbed in their 
subject. They often write anonymously and borrow in- 
discriminately from named and anonymous authors, from 
oral and written tradition. If William or Grim borrows from 
John of Salisbury, the borrower seems to regard himself as 
borrowing, not from John, but from " The Passion according 
to John " : for John himself must have borrowed from others 
his information as to facts that he did not witness. Hence 
great caution is needed before asserting that one author 
borrowed from another. Grim's work was almost certainly 
not written till after 1171, yet we have found words in it 
closely agreeing (315#) with a letter to the Pope written 
early in 1171. Yet it is not likely that Grim is the 
borrower. More probably he is the lender. 

12. The importance of internal evidence 

[385] The last section shows the importance of verbal 
and textual criticism, and the value of internal evidence, in 
eliciting historical truth from a number of parallel narratives. 

In the present instance we have a great advantage, 
because Grim tells us that he was with the Martyr in his 
last moments. But suppose he had omitted that sentence. 
His narrative, being then anonymous, would probably have 
been pushed into the background, like that of Anon. I. 
Yet, as a fact, Anon. I. is the most valuable of all our 
authors (except Gamier), and in some cases more valuable 
than all the rest put together : and the value of Anon. I. is 
known, not from external evidence as to the author, but 
from internal evidence alone. 

[386] It appears, then, that in the comparison of 

VOL. i 14 


documents we must begin by trying "to put ourselves into 
the position of each writer, in order that we may ascertain 
whether he is to be trusted, or distrusted, or put aside as 

[387] Those who are to be put aside as worthless are 
writers like Anon. X. who merely borrow scraps from earlier 
writers, and contribute nothing of their own ; so that their 
only value consists in their occasionally throwing light on 
the text of some one earlier than themselves. 

[388] The man who is to be distrusted is the man whom 
one must always suspect of wanting to infer, and to re- 
arrange in chronological order where there are no data for 
so doing, and to insert what is edifying, and to omit or 
modify what is non-edifying, and to clear up what is obscure 
by slightly altering the words and, worst of all, to do all 
this in such a way as not to allow us to distinguish what 
belongs to him from what belongs to his originals. In 
proportion to this man's ingenuity he will often be all the 
more dangerous, as he will be more open to the temptation 
of cleverly emending the text or drawing some subtle con- 
clusion ; as, for example, that because the Teacher makes 
a reference to " the inside of the cup and platter," therefore 
the utterance must have taken place at a meal. Goodness 
of purpose, and zeal, are no protections for such historians as 
these. Of all the writers about St. Thomas, none probably 
loved him better than Herbert of Bosham ; none cares less 
about the miraculous, or is more jealous for his hero's 
character and individuality, lest it should be lost and for- 
gotten in the Saint. Well may we believe the tedious, 
prolix old man, when he says that he cannot write about the 
Martyrdom for tears, and yet cannot desist from writing 
because he cannot tear himself away from his old friend and 
patron. Yet, in spite of all this, we have seen above that 
he makes repeated mistakes, where he ceases to be an 
eye-witness, and that these are largely caused by the Fallacy 

55 390 HIS DEATH 2 1 1 

of the Fitness of Things and the desire to assimilate the 
Martyr to the Saviour. 

[389] It is the plain prose writer who is to be trusted, 
when he writes about what he has seen and heard : the 
man who is not a classical student, not given to allusions, 
not a fastidious composer, softening facts for style's sake ; 
not a historical student, given to the finding of analogies, or 
correspondences between cause and effect ; not a theologian, 
bound to find sermons in facts and good everywhere. The 
simple, matter-of-fact reporter, losing himself in his subject, 
will often insert what is characteristic of his hero, even 
though it may be non-edifying or even a little scandalous. 
He feels, perhaps, an admiration too deep to be touched by 
the thought of " scandal." He will often, if he writes as an 
eye-witness, be artistically guilty of disproportion, emphasiz- 
ing what struck him at the time, and not consulting the 
feelings of posterity. Hence he is sure to be neglected 
when the hero, becoming far-famed, attains to the distinction 
of having his life recorded by writers of ability. If he 
happens, as Grim did, to be connected with the hero by 
some picturesque personal link, his book may remain ; but 
it will not exercise the influence attained by more artistic 
and discreet compositions. And if his book happens to be 
anonymous, and not to indicate, by internal evidence, any. 
such striking relation between the author and the hero as 
Edward Grim was able to allege, then his work may be 
relegated for many generations to the background. Such 
has been the fate of the work called Anon. I., of which the 
author, if not Robert of Merton, was inspired either by 
Robert, or by one who had many opportunities (either as 
an eye-witness or as one who had access to testimony, 
written or oral, from an eye-witness) for ascertaining the 
exact truth. 

[390] After internal evidence has been combined with 
external to help us to discriminate between the three 


classes above mentioned, the worthless must be resolutely 
cast aside. The temptation must be rejected to " give 
some weight " to this or that statement, because " it is 
supported by no less than authorities within years 
from the event," etc. Mere repetitions' should have no more 
evidential " weight " than those of parrots or starlings. 

[391] The untrustworthy are not to be thus cast aside, 
but they are to be most suspiciously criticized, with a rigid 
determination to reject any detail not contained in a 
trustworthy writer that either tends to edification, or shews 
signs of harmonizing. 

[392] The small remnant of trustworthy witnesses must 
be treated with the care and reverence due to their honesty 
and painstaking accuracy. One such witness must be for 
us a Samson against multitudes of adversaries of the two 
former kinds. Yet even here we must use discrimination. 
Samson is not Samson when he has cast away his strength ; 
and Grim is no longer the trustworthy Grim of the Martyr- 
dom when he passes out of the sphere of an eye-witness 
to record the saving of young Thomas from drowning 




[393] GERVASE, who was perhaps born about 1141, was made 
a monk of Canterbury on 16 Feb. H63. 1 He does not say that 
he was present at the Martyrdom. But neither does John of 
Salisbury, who was unquestionably present ; nor Benedict, who 
(for many reasons) might be supposed likely to be present. 2 Even 
Grim gives us no reason for supposing that he was present till he 
comes to mention Reginald's sword as " wounding the arm of the 
author of this narrative." Consequently we cannot infer from the 
silence of Gervase that he was absent. He had been a monk from 
1163, whereas William did not enter the monastery till after the 
Archbishop's exile, which began in Nov. n64. 3 Gervase, therefore, 
must have been senior to William, who was not invested by the 
Archbishop with the monastic habit till 1170. If he was in 
residence, and not prevented by illness, he might naturally be 
expected to attend vespers, in which case he would be in the 
Cathedral when the knights broke in. Then he may have fled. 
Or he may have remained in the Choir, till all was over. 

[394] Probably he did thus fly, or was absent. He is extremely 
vague as to all that concerns the attack on the Palace, and the 
Martyrdom, while he is definite and diffuse on the state of the 
body immediately after death, when he may be supposed to have 
emerged from his hiding-place. 

The Editor tells us that Gervase probably began to write his 
chronicle in 1188 : "for the period 1163-70," he adds, "with very 

1 The Historical Works of Gervase of Canterbury, vol. i. ed. W. Stubbs, 
D.D., 1879, pp. 226-228. 2 See 18. 3 Mat. i. p. xxix. 


minute exceptions, the whole of the materials which he has used 
are borrowed from the biographies of William of Canterbury, John 
of Salisbury, Alan of Tewkesbury, and Herbert of Bosham." The 
following narrative confirms these words, but also indicates in 
Gervase a general preference for William. He appears to make no 
use of Grim. 

There is scarcely a suggestion of the writer's own except as to 
Fitzurse's recoil, in the struggle with the Archbishop. Here he 
suggests a not very likely hypothesis, that he " went back a little " 
till he "saw his companions now close at hand." This adds one 
more to the ingenious interpretations and alterations (206) by which 
non-militant monks endeavoured to hold fast the belief that St. 
Thomas, in the moment of his martyrdom, acted in all respects like 
the ancient saints and martyrs. 

[395] His testimony, in one respect, differs from William's to 
confirm Anon. I., viz. in asserting that the first blow, struck by 
Fitzurse, wounded the Archbishop besides striking off his cap. 

The words " Let us go : he is dead," he assigns, not to Hugh 
of Horsea, the clerk, the perpetrator of the outrage on the body, 
but to " one of them," i.e. one of the four knights. 

As Gervase's account is much later than the rest, and devoid 
of individual information, it has not been thought worth while to 
translate it into English, but the Latin is given below, arranged in 
eleven sections corresponding to those of the narratives given above. 

(i. ) The Knights prepare to attack the Palace 

[396] Exeuntes itaque de palatio, introduxerunt in curiam archiepiscopi quos 
prae foribus reliquerant satellites dum cum archiepiscopo loquerentur. Exuentes 
autem se cappis et tunicis, apparuerunt loricati. 

(ii. ) The breaking open of the Palace 
Gervase omits this. 

(iii. ) The conveyance of the Archbishop to the Cathedral 

Dum igitur hii (sic) et alii se armis induerunt, et monachi in ecclesia vesperas 
cantarent, vix tandem archiepiscopo persuasum est ut vesperas auditurus ecclesiam 

(iv. ) The entrance of the Archbishop into the Cathedral 

Cum autem a monachis impulsus magis quam ductus ecclesiam fuisset in- 
gressus, et jam in ecclesia aliquot gradus ascendisset, 

396 HIS DEATH 215 

(v. and vi.) The approach, and the entrance, of the Knights 

ecce a tergo quatuor illi armati per claustrum exertis gladiis ecclesiam cum 
impetu ingrediuntur. 

(vii.) The meeting of the Archbishop and the Knights 

Quorum cum primus exclamasset, " Ubi est traditor ille?" et nemo respon- 
deret, subjunxit, " Ubi est archiepiscopus? " Ipse autem omnium voces praeveniens, 
de gradibus quos ascenderat descendens ait, " En ego." 

(viii.) The struggle 

Et adjecit, " Reginalde, Reginalde, multa tibi contuli beneficia, nunc in- 
grederis armatus ad me ? " At ille pallium archiepiscopi apprehendens ait, 
"Hoc scies jam. Egredere, jam morieris." Archiepiscopus autem de manu 
illius pallium excutiens, " Non egrediar," ait. At ille dixit, " Fuge ergo." 
"Non," inquit, "fugiam, sed, si me quaeritis, prohibeo ex parte Dei et sub 
anathemate, ne alicui ex meis quicquam mali faciatis." Ille autem, paululum 
retrocedens, et socios suos jam adesse conspiciens, 

(ix.) The first blow 

in caput archiepiscopi gladium vibravit, quo brachium clerici, magistri scilicet 
Edwardi, fere amputavit, ipsumque archiepiscopum in capite, excusso pilleo, 
vulneravit, et exclamavit, " Percutite, percutite." Extenderat enim clericus ille 
brachium suum super caput archiepiscopi ut ictum elideret ferientis. 

(x. ) The death and outrage 

Videns autem jam de caetero Sanctus vocandus horam suae passionis adesse, 
inclinato contra lictorum gladios nudato capite, haec ultima verba dixit : ' ' Deo et 
Sanctae Mariae et Sancto Dionisio et sanctis hujus ecclesiae patronis commendo 
me ipsum et causam ecclesiae." Accurrens autem alter ex eis, et is loricatus, 
cum magno impetu gladium suum in testam sancti martyris profundius incussit, et 
cerebrum violavit. Jam labare coepit in corpore hostia Christi, sed mente firmior ; 
et, ferientibus caeteris, quasi ad orationem in pavimento prostratus est, omnibus 
membris decenter compositis, ac si manibus dirigerentur humanis. Quidam 
autem ex eis immanior caeteris et inhumanior, jam jacentis, jam expirantis testulas 
capitis quas alii inciderant abscidit, et ex facili transitu pavimentum offendens 
gladii cuspidem fregit. Plaga autem a cono capitis usque ad cellam memorialem 
descendens, partem illam occipitii patulam fecit. Accessit postremo quidam 
Hugo, re et nomine Malus-clericus appellatus, ensis cuspidem patenti capiti 
crudeliter inpressit, cerebrum penitus dissipavit, extraxit, et in pavimentum cum 
testulis et sanguine sparsit. Unus autem ex eis, " Eamus," inquit, "mortuus 
est." Et redeuntes per claustrum, in signum dampnatae (sic) militiae suae 
clamabant, " Regales milites, regales." . . . 

(xi. ) After death 

. . . Accurrens autem populus civitatis patrem patriae suumque pastorem 
tam dire in ecclesia Dei interemtum videre cupiebant. 


O admirabilis viri sancti constantia ! Non regis insania, non episcoporum 
vel principum malitia, non exilium, non amicorum vel parentum suorum pro- 
scriptio, non gladius, sed nee ipsa mors eum a via veritatis avellere potuerunt. Et, 
quod mirabilius est, militi percutienti non caput avertit, non vestem vel manum 
interposuit, sed percutienti caput inclinavit, in pedibus stans donee consum- 
maretur. In terrain corruens membra quasi ad orandum composuit. Jacens non 
pedem, non manum movit vel caput, nisi quantum expiranti conceditur. Sed, ut 
aestimo, Deum habuit dispositorem et angelos cooperatores. Necdum animam 
expiraverat, et ecce ab omnibus fere Sanctus Thomas appellatus est. Vix aliquem 
in tanta videres multitudine qui ejus sanguine non vellet esse intinctus ; nam in 
ejus sanguine digitos imprimebant, et ipsius sancti nomen invocantes in frontibus 
suis vel oculis signum crucis faciebant. Collectus est ille sacrosanctus sanguis 
cum cerebro et testulis, et diligenter repositus est, post modicum toti mundo 
propinandus. Delatum est autem corpus exanime ante altare Christi, ubi tota 
nocte ilia clausis oculis, compressis labiis, membrisque decenter compositis, adeo 
vividus intuentibus apparuit ac si vivens in corpore carperet sompnum (sic). 



In the following condensed paraphrases, the italicized words 
represent the principal differences between the several accounts. 

i. Gamier (11. 206-30) (non-miraculous) 

[397] For a good half year together, as I have heard him 
say, Thomas was wont to go with a friend of his father, Richers de 
1'Aigle by name, through woods and by streams. Then began he to 
love hawk and hound. One day, Thomas went with his friend on 
the river-bank to learn the ways and manners of birds (i.e. hawking). 
They came to a mill-stream spanned by naught save a plank. Richers, 
who went first, passed across the plank. Thomas came afterwards 
all hooded. But one of his horse's feet slipped. He and the horse were 
plunged in the stream. Down he floated, drawn fast towards the 

[397] En la maisun sum pere soleit dune osteler K'une planche, u passa celes genz poinnere. 

Richers de 1'egle ; od lui soleit Tomas aler Li bier ala devaunt et 15 enfes derere. 

En bois et en rivere, et od lui converser Par desus la plaunche est li chevalers passez, 

Ben demi an ensemble, si cum I'ot center. Tomas ala apres, tut enchaperunez. 

Dune komencha mult chiens et oiseus a amer. Mes a sun cheval est un des peiz eschapiez, 

Od lui ala un jur Tomas en la rivere. II et li chevaus est enz el duit reversez. 

Des oiseus volt aprendre les gez et la manere ; II a vuide la sele. Aval esteit flotez. 
Vindrent a un grant duit ; n'i out punt ni charere, 

398 HIS DEATH 217 

mill-wheel. Just when he was bound to be dragged under the wheel, 
the miller turned off the water. Thus God, for that time, guarded 
the youth from death. 

2. Anon. I. (Mat. iv. 6-7) (non-miraculous) 

[398] For a year and a half Thomas lived with Richer de PAigle, 
his father's friend, who was fond of hawking and hunting, and Thomas 
learned the same liking, which he afterwards indulged sometimes, in 
hours of leisure. One day, the two went out hawking and came to 
a rapid stream crossed by nothing but a footbridge. The knight, 
despising the danger, went over first. Thomas, safe and hooded, 
inasmuch as he anticipated no disaster, followed in his steps. The 
horse's foot slipped, and the youth, with the horse as well, fell into the 
stream. Torn from his horse, he was hurried down to the mill-wheel, 
when suddenly the miller turned off the water. The knight and his 
retinue followed the boy with cries along the river-side. Hearing 
their voices the miller came out, and dragged Thomas out half dead. 

De de juste la plaunche out un mulin mulaunt, Ke il deveit par lui si granz bens acumplir ! 
De grant ravine ala ; Tomas i vint flotaunt. Les asquanz soffre Deus a vivre et a guarir, 

Quant il dut en la roue chair, le chef avaunt Pur 50 que'mult granz maus deit par eus avenir ; 

Li muners out mulu, mil 1'escloture a taunt : Et li asquanz redeivent mult granz biens par- 

Si guarist Deus de mort, a cele feiz, 1'enfaunt. furnir. 11. 206-30 

Kar Deus le volt por 90 guarder et guarauntir, 

[398] Hospitabatur in domo patris sui miles quidam nomine Richerius de 
Aquila, vir quidem secundum saeculum nobilis et honorabilis, canum tamen et 
avium exercitationi fere semper intentus. Hunc Thomas adhuc puer, cum per 
dimidium annum a scholis vacaret, ad talia negotia procedentem libenter frequen- 
terque sequebatur, plurimumque talibus occupationibus delectabatur, indeque 
hujusmodi traxisse creditur consuetudinem, cui etiam in majori postea aetate, 
quotiens vacabat, operam impendebat. Contigit autem ut memoratus miles 
quadam die ad simile negotium mor2 solito exiret, et Thomas eum equo sedens 
sequeretur ; eratque iis transitus per quendam fluvium rapidissimum, in quo erat 
pons parvus et arctus, qui tantum pedestres transmittere posset. Erat quoque 
non longe inferius molendinum, ad quod iste fluvius, ripis hinc inde congestis ne 
efflueret, magno cum impetu praeceps vergebat. Miles autem, compendii causa 
periculum contemnens, transivit pontem prior ; quern Thomas, tutus et capuciatus, 
quippe qui nihil infortunii suspicabatur, e vestigio subsequitur. Et ecce, cum ad 
pontis medium venisset, subito pes equo labitur, et puer cum ipso equo in medium 
fluminis prolabitur. Excipitur igitur ab aquis, et violento undarum impetu ab equo 
disjunctus ad inferiora rapitur ; jamque molendino, tarn a rota conterendus quam 
ab aquis suffocandus, approximabat. Dum haec agerentur, et Thomas in confinio 
mortis constitutus videretur, homo qui molendinum curabat, nihil penitus de his quae 
agebantur sciens, aquam subito a rota exclusit. Miles autem et qui eum comita- 
bantur magnis et miserandis clamoribus puerum secus ripam sequebantur ; quorum 


Both these writers comment on the result as providential. 
Gamier adds that God suffers the bad to live and recover because 
many great evils must needs come to pass through them ; and some 
He saves to do great good. 

Neither sees a miracle. But the next narrative, besides quite 
altering the circumstances relating to the loss and the rescue of the 
falcon, apparently sees a miracle in the standing still of the mill-wheel. 

3. Grim (Mat. ii. 360-1) (miraculous) 

[399] One day, while Thomas was hawking with his rich 
[friend], a falcon, following a wild duck and just catching it as it 
dived, was itself drawn under water. For pity of the perishing 
falcon, the youth dismounted, and leapt into the stream. But he 
was in danger of drowning, and his friends could give him no help. 
Presently he drifted down towards a mill-wheel. Just as he drew 
close to the outrush of the mill-stream, the wheel stood, and did 
not move once till he was drawn out, alive, but terribly bruised. 
But his bruises were healed by the healing hand of the Saviour, 
who protected him when despaired of in the waters. 

4. The Saga (i. 33) (miraculous) 

[400] One day, Thomas, with many companions, flieth his 
hawk at a certain bird / and in such way they parted that the hawk 

vocibus, molendino jam quieto et a strepitu cessante, auditis, homo praefatus 
tandem de molendino admirans quid vellet egreditur, et Thomam in mediis fluctibus 
conspicatus, injecta celeriter manu semivivum eum et vix palpitantem ad terrain 
extraxit. Quis hoc casu contigisse crediderit, et non potius divinam providentiam 
tarn subitam et inopinatam subventionem periclitanti puero et future ecclesiae suae 
antistiti misericorditer procurasse ? 

[399] Die vero quadam accidit ut, ad ripas eunte Thoma simul cum divite, 
motam de flumine anam accipiter insequeretur, secutusque divertentem in flumen 
cum ipsa pariter mergebatur. Quod videns adolescens, miseratus accipitrem jam 
periturum, equo desiliit, seque in gurgitem, ut avem eriperet, praecipitavit ; sed 
priusquam avem contingeret, raptus ipse intra alveum fluminis, et nunc mersus 
sub aquis, nunc undarum vi impellente levatus, periclitari coepit, et penitus 
periisse putabatur ab intuentibus, dum nullus adesse potuit qui manum porrigeret 
pereunti. Denique ad molendinum, quod tune forte molebat, aquae tractu 
perlatus, ubi primo aquae exitibus propinquavit, stetit rota nee se movit semel, 
quousque vivus quidem, sed vehementer afflictus, adolescens extractus est. Sed 
fovit afflictum medica manus Salvatoris, quem inter undas desperatum protexit 
ne exstingueretur lucerna futurus in Israel, cujus morte pretiosa tanta cernimus 
beneficia provenisse. 

401 HIS DEATH 219 

pursued the prey across a certain river, where it alighted far away. 
Thomas being minded to fetch the hawk, rideth forth unto the river ; 
but soon, coming to the slight bridge, got off his horse and walked on the 
bridge. Then his foot slipped and he tumbled into the river. [For 
the rest the writer quotes Robert of Cricklade.] " Straightway, as 
he was hurried into the madly rushing torrent, the mill-wheel 
stopped, and the river became, in the twinkle of an eye, like the 
calmest river-pool " ; and the Prior averreth that the current did not 
move again to turn the mill-wheel, ere all the limbs of St. Thomas 
had been lifted out of the water unto the dry land. 

[401] Gamier gives the correct account. But the Saga's 
supplement may very well be true, viz. that the hawk had flown 
across the stream a long way, so that Thomas (and perhaps the 
knight, too) wanted to recover it quickly. This explains why they 
were so foolhardy as to cross a footbridge with their horses. 

Anon. I. may have mistranslated the French "tut," "all," taking 
it to mean " tutus " ; and his addition, " suspecting no danger," 
may shew that he felt it difficult to make sense out of his error. 
Perhaps he took " tutus " to mean " feeling safe." See, how- 
ever, 25a. 

Grim's account can hardly have come from the French, but may 
well have sprung from some Latin not very different from that of 
Anon. I., "pes equo labitur." This he may have interpreted as 
meaning " ex equo," or " de equo, labitur," " he got nimbly off his 
horse." 1 So, too, Grim may have taken " he hastily went to recover 
a falcon that had lighted across the stream, and was in danger of 
being lost " as meaning " that had lighted on the stream, and was in 
danger of being lost in the stream." The next step was to invent a 
diving duck as a cause for this " danger of being lost " ! 

It should be noted that, in the Saga, Robert of Cricklade, and 
not the poet, is responsible for the miraculous part of the story. 

1 In Virg. Aeneid, xi. 596 "curru delapsus" means "slipping nimbly from 
the chariot," a voluntary act. 




I. Miracles, at first, unfashionable, and even dangerous 

[402] THE miracles at Becket's tomb, or in connection 
with Becket's name, seem to have begun almost immediately 
after the night of his death. It became necessary to appoint a 
special monk to sit near the tomb and to receive offerings : 
and on him it naturally devolved to hear the accounts of these 
marvels and to report them to the Chapter of the brethren, 
before whom, says Fitzstephen, 1 they were publicly read. 

[403] But the publicity was at first confined to the 
chapter-house. In the spring of 1171 no one dared to 
mention the miracles abroad. The De Brocs beset the 
bridges and roads leading to Canterbury, and stationed men 
outside the hospices to intimidate or arrest any who spoke 
well of the Martyr or magnified his miracles. The higher 
clergy, as well as the knights and nobles, followed the 
King in setting themselves against the Archbishop's memory 
and the marvels .that redounded to his glory. It was the 
poor, and at first mainly the poor of Canterbury and the 
neighbourhood, whose imaginations and affections went out 
towards the Martyr as their champion and father, and who 
persisted, so tJ speak, in being cured, at a time when such 
cure was unfashionable or even dangerous. Women of 

a higher class, and priests, formed also a large element in 


1 Mat, i i. 151. For the meaning of tin's and other references, see \a. 


the patients healed. But it was, for the most part, the 
lowest class who in the earliest days reverenced St. Thomas 
as a martyr and prepared the way for the conversion of 
the prelates, the barons, and ultimately the King himself. 
Hence, in those first days, when any imposture, detected 
by the De Brocs or other enemies of Becket's fame, might 
have been used effectively against the monks of Canterbury, 
they were naturally forced to be careful in testing the 
evidence for each miracle reported to the Chapter. 

2. The nature of the first miracles 

[404] Benedict, who was the first appointed to report 
the miracles, seems to have been well adapted for the task, 
a man of (comparatively) simple and unaffected style, 1 
peculiarly accurate (for those times) in matters of chronology, 
free from exaggeration, and disposed to suspect exaggeration 
and imposture in others. Hence, great weight must be 
attached to his accounts of the early miracles. The diseases 
healed by them were for the most part (as might have 
been anticipated) nervous disorders, such as might be cured 
by a strong emotional shock. In some cases, Benedict 
frankly tells us that the cure was not at first perfect ; 
in others, that it was followed by relapse. In one case he 
informs us that the reputed water of St. Thomas was not 
St. Thomas's at all. It was a fraudulent imitation ; yet it 
performed the desired cure. 2 Let the reader compare, in 
the following extracts, Benedict's (or Fitzstephen's) account 
of the healing of one William, a London priest, four or five 
days after the Martyrdom, with the corresponding account 
given by an anonymous writer (Anon. V.), who probably 

1 [404] Compare Mat. ii. 27, where Benedict says that w'len he questioned 
St. Thomas (who had appeared to him in a vision) in French, the saint replied 
to him in Latin : this may possibly imply that Benedict w.vs rather more 
proficient in the former language than in the latter. 

2 Mat. ii. 2 1 6. 


wrote less than five years after the event. The latter 
makes two visions instead of one, and makes the priest 
come to Canterbury, not in consequence of, but in anticipa- 
tion of, the Archbishop's death (433) ! 

[405] Further remarks may be deferred till we come 
to the comparison of Benedict's and William's accounts of 
the individual miracles. The following extracts describe 
generally how the miracles began amid persecution and 
discouragement. No details will be given except as to 
the one or two mentioned as occurring first of all. 

3. Benedicts description of the night and day after 
the Martyrdom 

[406] (i) Benedict (Mat. ii. 15) declares that when 
the body was raised from the earth there appeared a ring 
of blood round the head, but none on the face except a 
thin streak from the right temple down to the left cheek 
across the nose, " with which sign he afterwards appeared 
in visions to many that knew nothing of the matter ; and 
these described it in relation precisely as though they had 
seen it with their bodily eyes." Even while it was still 
lying on the pavement, some smeared their eyes with 
blood ; others brought little vessels and took by stealth 
what they could ; others dipped strips from their garments 
in it. In the general confusion each did as he would. But 
as much of the blood as they had left to the church was 
placed, " with all care of cleanliness, in a clean vessel," and 
stored up for keeping in the church. 

[407] The night passed in lamentation. Next morning, 
there was again a large force of armed men gathered outside 
the city walls ; " and it was noised abroad on all sides that 
they had collected for the purpose of forcibly carrying away 
the body of the holy Martyr. They therefore proceeded 
in haste to bury him, even leaving the body unwashed 

VOL. i 15 


(except in the blood of martyrdom, which was better than 
any anointing). When taking off the outer garments in 
order to array him in pontifical robes, they found not only 
the shirt, but even the drawers, of haircloth, and the monk's 
habit above that. 

[408] Almost all our writers lay great stress on the 
unexpected contrast between this inward self-mortification 
(especially in the use of haircloth for drawers as well as shirt) 
and the outward pomp of the deceased Archbishop. "Looking 
at one another," says Benedict, " and astounded at the sight 
of such a secret religious practice beyond belief," they wept 
more bitterly than ever. He then digresses to describe the 
Archbishop's foreknowledge of his death, and concludes the 
Passion with its date (correctly given) and the doxology. 

4. Benedict's account of the first miracle 

[409] At this point begins the Prologue of Benedict's 
Chronicle of Miracles (Mat.- ii. 21), describing first of all the 
sorrow of the bereaved Church, and then the consolation 
springing from the marvels that immediately followed, and 
the moral effect of these marvels on the whole nation and in 
foreign parts, particularly as confirming the title of Pope 
Alexander. The Prologue concludes with an enumeration 
of the different kinds of miracles to be related. 

[410] The first book of the treatise begins with an 
account of three visions, in which the Martyr appears on 
three consecutive nights to Benedict, holding a lantern and 
saying, " I carry a lantern, but it cannot be seen because of 
an intervening cloud " ; which meant that the Saint's good 
actions were prevented by the cloud of persecution from 
shining before men. Then follow other visions connected 
with, or predictive of, the Martyrdom, and then the writer 
passes from visions to miracles, of which the first is as 


On the third day, the news of the murder came to the 
wife of a knight in Sussex, who suffered from a weakness 
(" infirmitas ") accompanied with blindness (" excaecaverat 
earn ipsius infirmitatis vehementia "). " ' St. Thomas,' she 
cried, ' precious martyr of Christ, I devote myself to thee. 
If thou wilt restore me the blessing of my lost sight and 
recall me to health, I will visit thy resting-place to pay vows 
and offerings . . .' Immediately as though the Archbishop 
had said to her, 'O woman, great is thy faith, be it unto thee 
even as thou wilt ' in about half an hour . . . she received 
her sight and within the sixth day rose from her bed." Her 
delay to perform her vow was visited with a still more severe 
weakness (" gravioris flagello infirmitatis "). " She renewed 
her vow. At once she recovered, and hastened to Canter- 
bury with her husband and household to render thanks to 
the saint for his double blessing." Benedict applies to the 
miracle the words used in the Fourth Gospel concerning the 
sign at Cana: "This beginning of signs did Jesus in Sussex 
of England, and manifested the glory of his martyr before 
the faces of us his disciples who ate and drank with him 
before ... he was slain." 

5 John of Salisbury 

[411] (2) John of Salisbury (Mat. ii. 322), after describ- 
ing the burial in a marble sarcophagus, continues thus : "And 
there . . . great miracles are wrought . . . For in the place 
of his passion, and in the place where he lay before the great 
altar previous to burial, and in the place where he was at 
last buried, paralytics are cured, the blind see, the deaf hear, 
the dumb speak, the lame walk, lepers are cured , . . and 
(a thing unheard of from the days of our fathers) the dead 
are raised." 

[412] No instance is mentioned by Benedict or William 
of " the dead being raised " at the tomb, and therefore John 


is probably referring to instances of revivification by means 
of the " water of St. Thomas," away from the tomb. But 
the fact that he makes no special mention of the vast number 
of miracles wrought at a distance, is indicative of a very early 

6. William's Preface 

[413] (3) William's (Mat. i. 137-8) Book of Miracles 
is introduced by a prefatory letter of the monks of Canter- 
bury to King Henry : " We have thought fit to bring to 
the notice of your serene highness . . . the works wrought 
by the Martyr Thomas through various places in your realm} 
But further, if you have leisure (though your ears be wearied 
with a vast multitude of affairs) . . . we will proceed to relate 
(prosequemur) the signs whereof we receive report from other 
regions. . . . For this cause, we have sent our beloved brother 
William, with a book on which he has laboured for some 
time, according to your request." 

7. Apparent allusions to Benedict 

[414] In the preface to his own book on the miracles, 
Benedict says that St. Thomas appeared to him on the night 
of his martyrdom and again on the second or 1 third night, 
signifying that his light was to be manifested on earth by 
miracles. Similarly William relates that, when he was 
requested by the monks to set forth for the purpose of 
transcription the miracles which he was concealing uncor- 
rected and incompleted in separate leaflets (in schedulis 
occultabat incorrecta et imperfecta), he also received a vision 
in which St Thomas said to him, " Choose what thou wilt." 2 

[415] The letter of the monks to King Henry suggests 

1 Apparently the monks are here referring to Benedict's work which, in its 
first shape, probably contained none but English miracles. William's, from the 
first, included a large number of foreign ones. 

1 Probably " vel " is a mistake for " et." 2 Mat, \. 2. 


a comparison between Benedict and William. If Benedict 
received three nightly visions of St. Thomas, so did William, 
too ; and one of these (like Benedict's) dated from the 
beginning of the Passion. In the first two visions, a "book" 
was " cast " by St. Thomas toward William, who could not 
then understand what the " book " might mean. But there 
came a time when the brother whose business it was to hear 
and record the miracles found himself no longer equal to the 
multitude of wonders. And now a third vision indicated the 
meaning of the "book." William heard in the night the 
command "Give thine aid (operam adhibe)." Next morning, 
" when the brethren were in full assembly, and complaint 
was freely made that sufficient diligence and pains were not 
given to the hearing of the reports of the miracles, which 
were so gloriously manifested in the church at Canterbury, 
and which were related by the concourse of folk coming to 
pray [at the tomb], it was unanimously enjoined on the 
brother now in question " [William] " that he was to take his 
part in the task. In his writing, therefore, he touches briefly 
on only a few points, following the truth, not the order, of the 
miraculous facts. For as to what came earlier and what came 
later, there is neither leisure to attend to [such questions'], nor 
does it make much difference." 

There can be little doubt that Benedict is the unnamed 
"brother" here alluded to as unequal to the task of recording 
the miracles, and whose care (at the commencement of his 
task) to distinguish "what came earlier and what came later" 
seemed to the Canterbury monks so superfluous. 

8. William acts on the principle " Choose what thou wilt" 

[416] The Easter of 1171 saw the first public outburst 
of miraculous efficacy. This would certainly recur more 
vehemently than ever in the Easter and Whitsuntide of 
1 172. In that year the younger king Henry began a war 


against his father in which many might recognize (as the 
so-called Matthew of Westminster does) a retribution for the 
murder of the late Archbishop. In the same year, King 
Henry "purged himself" before the papal legates at Avranches. 
By this time, then, miracles at the tomb and pilgrimages to 
the tomb would be quite safe for all ; and soon, if not 
already, they would become in fashion among the " middle 
classes (mediae manus homines)," respected, if not yet much 
practised, by the knights and nobles, and profitable for 
beggars and impostors. This was the date (May 1172) 
when William was called by a vision and by the monks of 
Canterbury to Benedict's aid. In the early days of miracles, 
the chronicler could not afford to be a chooser ; but now, 
with so vast a multitude of instances, William was well able 
to select those that were best authenticated, or most edifying, 
or most interesting in some cases, we may say, most 
amusing acting on the convenient principle revealed to him 
in his vision, " Choose what thou wilt." 

[417] Concerning the rise and development of miracles, 
William gives no information at all, not even so much as is 
found in small works on the Passion. Disclaiming chrono- 
logical order, he gives the first place to a miracle that does 
not occur in Benedict's work till the beginning of his Fourth 
Book and was possibly absent from Benedict's work in its 
earliest edition. 

9. Grinds account of the first miracle, and of the burial 

[418] (4) Grim (Mat. ii. 439 sg.) says that on the night 
of the Martyrdom few dared at first to lament openly. 
Partly they feared the King's servants who were everywhere 
busy about the precincts, partly, " not even the majority of 
the monks, and no one at all of the rest," felt any special 
regard for the person of the deceased, any more than for the 
death of one of the common people, " except that such an 


unprecedented act (perpetrated in a church} caused universal 
horror. I say ' for the person ' : for in our hearing one of 
our own habit and tonsure slanderously said that he ought 
certainly not to be regarded as a martyr, having been slain 
as the reward of his own obstinacy." But his fame was 
speedily vindicated by miracles, since " on the third day " 
after the Martyrdom " a new light sent from above restored 
the light of [this] world to one who invoked the Martyr's 

[419] These words prepare the way for an accurate 
abridgment of Benedict's miracle of the restoration of sight 
(" the light of this world ") to the Sussex knight's wife, who 
" invoked the Martyr's name." General terms of time are 
used : " She scarcely finished these words, when she regained 
her much-desired sight in the selfsame hour [B. " half 
an hour "], and in a short time [B. " a week "] completely re- 
covered from the rest of her disease." This cannot be called 
exaggerated. Grim adds that this and several other miracles 
were kept quiet for the time as though they were not believed, 
until the opposition of the impious gave way by reason of 
the multitude of the marvellous acts. 

[420] On the morrow, in order to anticipate outrage on 
the Martyr's body threatened by one of the King's courtiers, 
it was buried that night; and the unexpected discovery of hair- 
cloth round his limbs so infested with worms " that any one 
would deem yesterday's martyrdom lighter than that," com- 
pletely converted the brethren : " See, see," they cried, " he was 
indeed a monk, and we knew it not." No one of them now 
doubted that he deserved to be called a martyr. 

[421] When the body was laid in the crypt, "they 
collected the blood by heaven-sent inspiration . . . and, by 
drinking this, so many benefits were speedily bestowed that, 
if they were written singly, they would be beyond the belief 
of the weak. For he it is who is the lover of the brethren and 
of the people of Israel ... by whose merits and intervention 


the blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the dead 
rise. . . ." Here the narrative of the Passion concludes, with 
a doxology. 1 

10. Anon. I. on tJte burial 

[422] (5) Anon. I. (Mat. iv. 78-9), after describing the 
closing of the Cathedral and the placing of the body before 
the high altar, says, " They also placed vessels beneath, to 
catch the blood that streamed from the body ; not being 
ignorant of the very great preciousness of the blood 
of the Martyr, which had been poured out for the love 
of God and the church." Next morning, he continues, came 
Robert de Broc sent by Randulph de Broc, who, with threats 
of outrage, bade the monks bury the body at once. Un- 
clothing it for burial, the monks found haircloth next the 
flesh, and all the vestments so adjusted as to admit of 
frequent " discipline ; for indeed he frequently had himself 
scourged. On the very day on which he suffered, he is 
asserted * to have been thrice scourged. 2 . . . Then indeed 
the monks, seeing that this saintly man had in his secret 
life all the tokens of sanctity and religion, rejoiced inexpres- 
sibly, and said to one another, Behold one that was indeed 
a monk and indeed a hermit, who endured torments not only 

1 The author passes to describe the desolation of the Cathedral for nearly a 
year, and the King's penitential visit (1174) to Canterbury accompanied by an 
improvement in his fortunes. He concludes abruptly with a dream of the King 
in which Henry sees Benedict the Prior of Canterbury sent by St. Thomas to 
rescue him from falling into an abyss. 

1 On this point, see Grim (Mat. ii. 417-8), who says that he received his 
account of the daily scourgings of the Archbishop from his chaplain Robert of 
Merton. Hence it must be admitted that the words " it is asserted " are rather 
against the hypothesis that Robert was the author of Anon. I. However, the 
first person is avoided throughout that biography. 

2 Anon. I. (as also Fitzstephen) makes no mention of the "worms " described 
by Benedict and Grim. But Anon. I. may include them in the following words, 
"omnia sanctitatis et religionis insignia in occultis suis habentem." The Saga, 
also (446), omits the "worms." 


in death but also in life." Then, full of consolation, they 
laid him in the crypt, " where blessed gifts of healing and of 
miracles, numerous and indeed past numbering, are through 
his merits conferred on the faithful, bestowed by our Lord 
Jesus Christ, who, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, 
reigneth for ever. Amen." 

11. FitzstepJien 's account of the burial 

[423] (6) Fitzstephen says (Mat. iii. 146) that for a 
long time the dead Martyr lay almost alone, deserted by 
clerks, monks, and all the rest ; not even light was brought 
for the performance of the obsequies. 1 Osbert his Chamber- 
lain cut a strip off his shirt to cover the remnant of his 
half-severed head. Then, amid general lamentation, the 
parts of the wounded head were adjusted, and the body 
was placed before the high altar. Robert of Merton, the 
Archbishop's chaplain and confessor, shewed the monks the 
haircloth next the skin, and the monk's habit above it. 
Then there was great rejoicing. Perceiving with their own 
eyes this " double martyrdom, voluntary during life, and 
violent in death, they fell down and kissed his hands and 
feet," invoking him as Saint and Martyr. " Soon a monk 
of the church, Ernold the Goldsmith, and certain with him, 
return to the place of martyrdom, and with all cleanliness 
collect in a basin the blood and brains scattered on the 
pavement of the church." "Next morning it was loudly 
rumoured (perstrepit rumor) in the church that the house 
of de Broc and their accomplices had prepared to drag 
him out of the church, regretting that they had killed him 
in a church." 2 The monks therefore determined to bury 

1 "Nee etiam ablato (? adlato) lumine ad sanctas ejus exsequias." This 
paragraph is omitted by J (15). 

2 "Regretting." This differs greatly from Gamier, Benedict, Grim, and 
Anon. I., who mention threats made by De Broc, or others, to cast the body 
into a cesspool. 


him at once, deciding that he " should not even be washed 
except as he was already, in his own blood." 

There follows a full description of ( I ) his burial clothing, 
(2) the younger Henry's sorrow on hearing of the murder, 
and (3) the placing of the body " in a new sarcophagus 
of marble, before two altars." 

12. Fitzstephen's account of the first miracles 

[424] Then comes an account of the first miracles : 
" Immediately after the burial, in the same [night and in 
the same] week the action of the divine virtue manifested 
its presence." 1 A citizen of Canterbury, who had beheld 
the martyrdom, returned home to his paralytic wife with a 
garment dipped in the Martyr's blood. On hearing his 
story, " she begged that the blood might be washed off and 
caught in water so that she might drink its healing draught. 
It was done, and she was at once cured. This, the first 
of the signs, God wrought for his Martyr the same night. 
Hence, as I suppose, came the custom (through divine 
inspiration) of infusing a portion of the blood of St. Thomas 
in water, and of distributing this mixture of blood and 
water (illud sanguinis et aqua mixtum) to the pilgrims of 
St. Thomas in tin phials to carry home for the healing of 
their sick folk. . . . And indeed that mixture with water 
(illud aqua mixtum) besides availing sick folk innumerable 
for healing, has also availed some that were dying for the 
averting of death ; nay, I assert something more, [a thing 
difficult] but healthful to believe it has availed some that 
were dead, so that they have risen to life." 

[425] " On the fourth night from his passion (a passione 
ejus nocte quarta) ... it was revealed to a clerk of London 
that a priest of London, William de Capella, who had become 

1 "In ipsa [nocte et in ipsa] hebdomade divinae virtutis affuit operatic." J. 
omits the bracketed words ; and they look like an insertion made for the sake 
of definiteness. 


dumb, should go to the tomb of St. Thomas, and there be 
cured. And so it was. 2 . . ." 

[426] Another saw "a nightly vision of Jesus Christ 
crucified in that part of the crypt where the earthly remains 
of St. Thomas were laid. And rightly ; for He Himself 
suffers in each of His martyrs." 3 Further, a woman leading 
the life of an anchorite, ignorant of letters, and not knowing 
how to speak any Latin except some Psalms, the Lord's 

2 [4250] This miracle is told in greater detail by Benedict (Mat. ii. 42-3), 
who places it fifth in order, following others which occurred, severally, on the 
3rd, 5th, 6th, and subsequent days after the Martyrdom. It is introduced by 
him with the preface " Et post dies octo," and must therefore be supposed to 
have occurred on the 8th day from the Martyrdom, i.e. on 5th Jan. So far, 
the accounts are compatible. But Benedict adds another detail, viz. that the 
pries fs paralytic attack began on the fourth day before the Martyrdom. 

This has caused a curious exaggeration in a later writer (Anon. V.), who 
has confused this, the date of the attack, with the date of the vision (which was 
"on the fourth day from, i.e. after, the Martyrdom"). Hence Anon. V. (433), 
placing the vision on the fourth day before the Martyrdom, represents it as 
predictive, so that, when the two men come to Canterbury, they have their faith 
confirmed by finding the Archbishop slain that very day ! 

[425] Benedict says that this priest was "the first of all" to taste the 
water hallowed by the saint's blood, and that he received the gift of speaking, 
though imperfectly, while at Canterbury ; on his returning home, it was perfected. 

It is quite possible that the miracle performed (424) on the citizen's wife 
may not have come to Benedict's knowledge till long after its occurrence, and 
then may have been passed over by him as not sufficiently attested, or not 
important enough, to take the first place in his list (4270). Fitzstephen may 
have derived his information, as he often apparently does, from the servants of 
the Minster and from Canterbury people. 

3 [4260] Comp. Mat. i. 132, where it is said by William that St. Thomas, 
while living, had seen ("as it is asserted") a vision of himself crucified in the 
place where he fell. See 146, 1620. 

There seem to have been many versions of this tradition. William (Mat. i. 
144) says that Fermin, a physician of Canterbury, before the Martyr's Passion, 
saw "a man (or, the man) crucified in the place where he was buried." But 
(Mat. i. 142) a clerk of Coutances (also before the Passion) saw " the Crucified 
(crucifixus) " bearing His cross and leaning toward the north as if on the point 
of leaping towards England which prefigured the Martyrdom, because Christ 
is crucified afresh in His martyrs. The clerk (like Fitzstephen) quoted the story 
about Jesus going to Rome to be crucified in the place of St. Peter. There 
was probably some confusion between (i) "the Crucified," (2) "a man, or the 
man, crucified," (3) " himself crucified. " Of these, (i) seems the original. 


Prayer, and the Creed, wrote these Latin words in an ecstasy 
soon after the Martyrdom, " Noli flere pro Archiepiscopo. 
Caput ejus in gremio Filii mei requiescit." 

13. Fitzstephen on the hostility to the miracles 

[427] Fitzstephen goes on to describe the emissaries of 
de Broc as standing by night near the hospices in Canter- 
bury, ready to arrest any that spoke well of the Archbishop, 
and watching at the bridges and cross-roads to take the 
names of any that came on pilgrimage to him " until the 
grace of the acts of healing and the concourse of the people 
so prevailed that even the Archbishop's enemies cried ' We 
labour in vain : there is no counsel against the Lord. 1 Lo, 
all England goeth after him.' " Then he enumerates the 
diseases healed, and particularly seven cases of leprosy 
healed in the first year. After describing the increase in 
devotion to God resulting from the reverence for St. Thomas, 
he concludes with a prayer that the Saint may intercede 
for all with God, who is glorified in His martyrs for ever 
and ever. 

14. Herbert on the burial 

[428] (7) Herbert of Bosham (Mat. iii. 518 sq.) very 
lengthily, but with little or no addition of fact, describes 
how the crowd but " the poor, and only the poor " rushed 
into the Cathedral after the Martyrdom, to tinge their 
napkins and garments in the Archbishop's blood. The 

1 [4270] So Benedict says of the London priest that he praised God in secret, 
for fear of persecution : for " no one as yet spoke openly concerning him, or 
confessed his mighty works in public, but much was murmured in secret about 
them among the people." This also would explain, in part, why the wife of 
the Sussex knight for some time delayed her promised pilgrimage, and why the 
cure of the citizen's wife above mentioned (425^) did not come at all (or only 
after a long interval) to Benedict's ears. By Easter 1171, the miracles were so 
numerous that Benedict might naturally decline to insert in his records all the 
miracles that now began to put forward claims to be the first, especially when 
dealing with paralysis, and performed on a woman of the citizen class. 


body is then placed before the high altar, beautiful in death, 
in spite of the continued dropping of blood all through the 
night. The threat of the " vipers " (i.e. the house of Broc) 1 
is then mentioned, that, if the body is not speedily buried 
out of sight, it shall be " dragged by horses (distrahendum 
equis) through the whole city, or hanged on a gibbet" 
Then comes the hasty burial, and the unclothing of the 
body, and the contrast between the outward and inward 
garments, and the consequent exultation of the monks ; 
" and whereas most, even of them (inter ipsos plerique), 
as also the men of this world, had doubted his sanctity, 
now, seeing this, they were smitten with a terrible astonish- 
ment and a wholesome contrition, and thus were immovably 
strengthened [in their faith] . . . saying, ' Truly this was 
a son of God.' " 2 He concludes thus, " And on account 
of their fear, hiding away as it were the body of Thomas 
in the crypt of the church, they placed it in this new tomb, 
which was hewn out of the rock, in the year of the in- 
carnation of the Lord, one thousand one hundred and 
seventy-one, and about the fifty-third year of his life." 

15. Herbert's silence on the miracles 

[429] Herbert's silence about miracles does not imply 
that he disbelieved in them. But it probably does imply 
that he, writing some twenty years after the Archbishop's 
death, felt that the miracles tended to overshadow the man. 
Dedicating his book to Baldwin, Archbishop of Canterbury, 
he disparages Becket's miraculous " signs," in comparison 
with the " signs of his works " during life, holding up for 

1 Comp. Benedict (Mat. ii. 46) "cujusdam . . . quern B. Thomas in scriptis 
suis perditionis filium appellate consueverat," where the editor's marginal note 
is "Ranulf de Broc, Ep. v. 73, p. 848, ed. Lupus." 

2 This agrees with Grim, where Benedict and others are silent. Grim, as 
a new-comer, would be especially shocked by the lukewarmness or disaffection 
of the majority of the monks towards the Archbishop, until the discovery of 
his asceticism. 


imitation, as the true sign, his championship of the Church : 
" I desire, as it were by benefit of pen, to restore to you an 
example snatched from the world ; an example of true 
purity by which you should regulate your own life and 
government, and which you should also daily peruse. For 
to you especially has this exemplary man given an example, 
that, as he did, ye also should do likewise. For this cause, 
also, throughout this history, I have set forth this man as an 
example, not to be wondered at for his signs, but to be 
imitated for his works. For as for his signs given for un- 
believers which others have seen and written, I say 
nothing ; I pass them over in the whole of this historical 
work of mine. I give my attention solely to those signs of 
this exemplary man which consist in works, signs given to 
believers not only to wonder at but also to imitate and 
especially for you to imitate, called as you are by God 
and (unless I am mistaken) somewhat fearing, though ven- 
turing to wage the battle, and to bear the burden, and to 
fill the chair, of this great champion." 

16. Anon. II. on the miracles 

[430] (8) Anon. II. (MS. Lambeth, Mat. iv. 134 sq^ 
throws little light on the origin of the miracles. It lays 
stress on the proof of sanctity afforded by the clothing, and 
especially on the " multitude of vermin." Then, defending 
the Archbishop against the charge of pride, and appealing 
to his miracles as a proof that he was a true martyr, the 
author adds that "beginning from his tomb they spread 
through the world." 

17. Anon. HI. and Anon. IV. on the miracles 

[431] (9) A MS. of very early date (Mat. iv. 145, 
where it is called Anon. III.) says that at first none but the 
poor and lowly crept to the tomb ; then " the middle class 


(mediae manus homines)." Afterwards, " when the fear of 
the king was at last removed," clerks, barons, soldiers, and 
the whole people of England and neighbouring islands and 
realms, came in crowds to Canterbury. Another MS. says 
(ib. p. 1 60) that the King, when he first heard of the 
miracles, did not believe them, and took steps to discourage 
them : l (p. 1 6 1 ) he was actually said but the writer trusts 
it is not true to have threatened vengeance against the 
body of the Martyr ; even afterwards, he insisted on a share 
of the offerings, but he receded from this position some time 
before his submission and act of penitence. 

(10) Anon. IV. (Mat. iv. 195) merely speaks of miracles 
marvellously manifested not only at the Martyr's tomb but 
also in divers nations and realms. 

1 8. Anon. V. reports legends 

[432] (n) Anon. V. (Mat. iv. 199) asserts that the 
Archbishop's body, long dead, arose, and signed itself and 
the bystanders with the sign of the cross (signo crucis con- 
signavit), after which it fell to the ground. 1 Then the 
monks unclothed it and discovered the haircloth teeming 
with worms. Seeing this, " certain of the malefactors beat 
their breast's." '' There were also found on him letters which 

1 " Suos qui ierant corripuit." Benedict (Mat. ii. 186) speaks of having seen 
Odo of Falaise, the king's accountant, near the tomb, disguised as a beggar, in 
the summer of 1171. 

1 Possibly this legend may have arisen, ( I ) from the statement, suggested by 
the Fitness of Things, that, when the Martyr fell to the ground, he signed himself 
with the sign of the cross, (2) from a saying, originally metaphorical, that when the 
body was raised from the ground it brought down on itself and on all around it 
the blessing of heaven. These two may have been confused together. 

One MS. inserts a version of this in a letter from the Archbishop of Sens to 
the Pope written immediately after the murder (Mat. vii. 432), "when he was 
lying in the choir on the bier, about dawn, he raised his right hand and gave the 

2 Comp. Herbert concerning the finding of two hair-shirts in the plunder of 
the palace after the Archbishop's death: (Mat. iii. 513) "On finding two hair- 
shirts . . . they did not divide them or cast lots for them, but cast them 


he had received on the preceding Sunday from some of the 
King's courtiers, warning him of his approaching death. 

[433] " Meanwhile," the author continues, " as we have 
received on truthful testimony (veraciter), a blind man, who 
had once been of his household, received his sight in the 
blood of the slaughtered Martyr, touching his eyes [with it]. 3 
We have also heard (audivimus) that, while the Archbishop 
was still living, a London priest, who had long 4 lost the use 
of his tongue, saw in a vision 5 that, if his tongue were 
touched with the Archbishop's blood, it would be forthwith 
loosed. The same vision concerning the aforesaid dumb 
man was also frequently 6 revealed to a friend of his." 
Accordingly, they come to Canterbury. Presently, ap- 
proaching the city, they hear that the Archbishop has just 
been slain. " So they were the more strengthened in faith, 
and, entering the city, besought that some of the blood of 
the murdered man might be given them ; and thereupon 
(indeque) the tongue of the dumb man, on being touched, 

aside . . . ; yet were exceedingly amazed ... at such a token of religion. 
Wherefore also presently most of the band said to themselves with the centurion 
in the gospel (but silently by reason of their fear) ' Truly this was a just man. ' 
And beating their breasts they accordingly returned " (Luke xxiii. 48). If the 
writer took this from Herbert, he would be shewn to be of a very late date. 
But both he and Herbert appear to be recounting confused traditions that 
attempted to assimilate the Martyrdom to the Crucifixion. 

3 [433#] We have seen (406) that Benedict describes a multitude of common 
people as crowding round the Archbishop's bleeding body some of whom 
smeared their eyes with blood a striking testimony to the prevalence of oph- 
thalmia. It is quite possible that one of these may have ultimately recovered his 
sight : the writer does not here say that he received it immediately. But his 
story must be rejected, (i) because it is not recorded by any other of our 
numerous witnesses, (2) because Benedict, mentioning the " eye -smearing," 
almost obliges himself to mention this cure, if he knew of it, (3) because Anon. 
V. is guilty of inserting a legend above, and of perverting facts in the story 
that immediately follows. 

4 "Long (multo tempore)." Benedict says that the paralytic attack was only 
"four days before " the Martyrdom (425a). 

5 Benedict and Fitzstephen (425) say that the vision appeared, not to the 
priest, but to his friend alone. 

6 Benedict and Fitzstephen do not mention it as occurring more than once. 


was loosed. 7 This was reported to our acquaintance by very 
many, who afterwards heard the man celebrate mass." 

[434] The author proceeds to describe a nightly vision 
in which a monk in the crypt sees one of the ancient martyrs 
celebrating mass near the tomb and censing it : the brethren 
open the tomb and find a wonderful fragrance. He con- 
cludes thus : " They say that very many other miracles are 
being wrought (fieri) in the same place : but I have taken 
pains to commit to writing [merely] what I have been 
able to ascertain with special certainty (quod verius scire 
potui). While I was writing the above, there came in one 
asserting that one of the Archbishop's murderers had turned 
mad and killed his own son." The last sentence indicates 
that the author wrote before, or not much after, the end of 
three or four years from the Martyrdom : for within that 
time (30) the four murderers were all believed to be dead. 

[435] This testimony is peculiarly instructive. For it 
exhibits a man of learning, apparently writing in good faith, 
and probably within four or five years from the Martyr's 
death, yet (i) assigning to the dead body a stupendous 
miracle not found in any of the numerous descriptions of his 
death that proceeded, about the same time, from competent 
witnesses ; (2) describing a miracle, wrought by the blood of 
the Martyr while still lying on the pavement a miracle, 
whether manifested then or afterwards, at all events unre- 
corded by any other witness ; and (3) greatly exaggerating 
a miracle correctly described by an eye-witness (Benedict) 
and by one who was intimate with the Archbishop (Fitz- 

[436] (12) The Early Quadrilogus (Mat. iv. 412), after 
quoting from Herbert, adds a passage not in Herbert, in 
which it refers the reader to the book of miracles written by 
Benedict. The passage is somewhat similar to one by 

7 Benedict says the cure was partial at Canterbury but perfected in London. 
VOL. I 1 6 


Anon. I., but calls Benedict " Abbot of Peterborough " instead 
of " Prior of Canterbury." 8 

19. Anon. X. on the burial and miracles, "redness in the 


[437] (13) Anon. X. (Mat. iv. 438-9) says that on the 
morning after the murder, word was brought to the monks that 
an armed force had been gathered outside the city walls to 
drag the Archbishop's body out of the church with outrage. 
The monks, in fear, buried it, without the customary washing, 
in the crypt before the altars of St. John the Baptist and St. 
Augustine. The outer garments, when taken off, disclosed 
the hair clothing, beneath the monastic habit, covering all 
parts of the body, and caused general lamentations. " When 
buried," the author continues, " Thomas, the Martyr of God, 
began so suddenly to reveal his glory in (coruscare) miracles 
that no man could suffice to write or tell them. But a few, 
which are selected from many, and which (having had their 
truth tested) no one will be able to refute, are here briefly 
and truthfully noted down." 

[438] Then follows an account of a redness in the sky 
(on the night of the murder) which, at the time, the monks 
thought wonderful, but not miraculous : but afterwards they 
ascertained that a redness had been seen in the north from 
Rouen. 1 

[439] After this follow some miracles taken (with some 
alterations of language) from the first two books of Bene- 

8 The Late Quadrilogus says that when the four knights left the presence of 
King Henry, they took an oath under a tree to slay the Archbishop, which tree 
presently withered. This may be a legend based on the statement of William of 
Canterbury (Mat. \. 130) that when the four knights went out from the Arch- 
bishop's presence, they threw off their surcoats under "a mulberry tree," pre- 
paring to slay him. 

1 [438a] This writer says that some monks thought the city was on fire : but 
the servants rushed out and brought back word that the redness was in the 
sky. Fitzstephen omits this, but mentions a storm and heavy rain (341-5). 


diet's treatise, beginning with his first miracle, the one per- 
formed on the wife of the knight of Sussex. Only one has 
been reprinted by the editor of the Materials as differing 
essentially from Benedict. It describes the cure of one 
William, son of a citizen of Canterbury. The boy had seen 
in a dream St. Thomas looking on him and bidding a monk 
to take the boy a cup of his blood. The father, says Bene- 
dict, attempted next day, and the day following, but in vain, 
to procure the water tinctured with blood : on the third 
day, when the illness was worse than ever, the blood was 
obtained and the boy was healed. 

According to this, nothing happens on " the next day." 
Anon. X. inserts something. The boy had a second dream, 
in which he saw St. Thomas requesting the Virgin to succour 
and heal him ; but she refused, saying, " He has offended 
me " ; then he awoke, suffering increased pains. The rest 
(except for a slight addition) agrees with Benedict's version. 

20. Gamier on the burial and miracles 

[440] (14) Gamier says that the monks laid the body 
before the high altar after gathering up the blood and the 
brains, and that they watched it through the night, receiving 
the blood that flowed from it. Next morning, Robert, 
nephew of Randolph de Broc, bade the monks hide the body 
somewhere unless they wished it to be dragged out by horses, 
or torn in pieces, or cast into a cesspool and to dogs and 
swine. 1 The outer clothes of the Archbishop were taken off 
for the purpose of the burial, and all his garments are most 
minutely described, and the joy of the monks, exclaiming 

1 Garnier's words (1. 5669) "Gete en un putel et en greignur fuur" are 
rendered by Benedict (Mat, ii. 16) "in paludem, vel quemlibet locum viliorem 
quern nee nominari decet," by John (ib. 322) " in paludem viliorem," by Grim 
(ib. 441) "in foetentem puteum." Anon. I. omits it. Fitzstephen (423) takes 
a much milder view. Some might omit the details owing to their revolting 
nature. Others, and especially the monks of Canterbury, might emphasize them 
as an excuse for the hasty burial. 


when they see the proofs of his piety, " Behold the good 
monk : here you may find him." The vermin are also 
described as constituting a second martyrdom. 

[441] After mentioning the date of the death he con- 
tinues, as follows : " There was never heard, since the first 
age, That God shewed greater love to a dead man ; Many 
great miracles did He for him by night and day. On earth 
is God with us, for love of the Martyr, And makes the dead 
to live, the dumb to speak, the deaf to hear, The deformed 
well -formed ; He causes gout and fever to be cured ; 
Dropsied and leprous folk He restores ; The blind He makes 
to see, and the mad to return to their senses. Many 
Kings 2 come straight to seek him in pilgrimage, Princes and 
nobles, and dukes with their barons. . . . 

[442] In semblance of wine and water did God cause 
His own blood to be used by the world, in order to save 
souls : In water and in phials did God cause to be carried 
by the world The blood of the Martyr to heal the sick, By 
healing and by sign He doubled the honour for him " (5806- 


21. The Saga ; St. Thomas's Well 

[443] (15) The Saga, immediately after likening the 
appearance of the Martyr's body to " the rose and the lily," 
proceeds thus : " Now the heavenly King revealeth at once 
this miracle for a beginning . . . that at the time when the 

[441] Ne fu unques 01, des le siecle primur, Li prince, li barun, li due od lur barnage, 
Que Deus & home mort mustrast greignur amur ; 

Mult granz miracles fet pur lui, et nuit et jur. [442] En semblance de vin et d'eve fet user 

^ En terre est Deus od nus, pur amur al martir, Deus sun sane par le mund, pur les anmes 

E les morz fet revivre, muz parler, surz otr, sauver ; 

Les contrez redrescier, gutus, fevrus guarir, En eve et en ampules fet par le mund porter 

Idropikes, lieprus, en sante restablir, Deus le sane al martir pur les enferms saner, 

Cius veer, en lur sens les desvez revenir. En sante et en signe i fet 1'onur dubler. 

Plusur Rei 2 le requierent en dreit pelerinage, 5788-97, 5806-10. 

2 "Kings" may include Prince Henry, who had been formally crowned. 
He visited the Martyr's tomb before his father's visit. The latter took place in 
1174. Garnier cannot include the visit of Lewis VII., which took place in 1 179. 


learned men had gathered together into one large chalice the 
brains with the blood, and were carrying it unto the altar, 
the Holy Ghost descendeth down upon it in the likeness of 
a dove. . . . 

[444] Hereby also goeth another wonder, inasmuch as 
the great wound which the clerk Edward received was whole 
and healed before the body of the Archbishop was cold on 
the floor. . . . Thus the monks and the clerks spend this 
dread night in sorrow and weeping and much wailing, as 
God alone knoweth. 

[445] But . . . , that same night, there sprang up 
through a stone in the crypt a fair and desirable spring 
which sithence is called St. Thomas's Well. . . . By divine 
providence also things were so ordained this night, too, that 
they had no need to go out on any errands ; for now cometh 
a true news by rumour flying unto the church, that the 
murderers of the Archbishop are minded to take his body 
with force away, and to drag it through the town or to hang 
it to the gallows." 

[446] The Saga, in describing the unclothing of the 
Martyr, makes no mention of vermin, but speaks of " the 
worry of the itching and the smarting of the cloth " as being 
a permanent martyrdom. It does not expressly say that 
the body was not " washed," but after stating that the body 
was " not embalmed," adds, " He had no need to receive the 
anointment of this world who was already reddened in the 
blood of so glorious a passion." 

22. Origin of the Saga's legends 

[447] The miracles here described by the Saga are such 
as might easily have sprung up in a very few years through 
poetic transmission. Nothing was more natural than that, 
within five years from the Martyrdom, the pilgrims of St. 
Thomas should say that the Holy Ghost had blessed his 


blood to the healing of the world and had descended on it 
from that first moment when the monks began to collect it. 
Moreover, to say that " virtue went out from the crypt in 
which he was laid for the healing of all the world " might 
easily be expressed with allusion to the Water of St. Thomas 
carried about through all the world by saying that " From 
the crypt of St. Thomas, on the night when he was there 
first laid, there came forth a fountain to heal disease and sin." 
The miraculous healing of Edward Grim is of quite a different 
character. No metaphor can explain that story. But it 
arose naturally in the minds of men unable to distinguish 
marvellous and instantaneous cures of nervous and muscular 
diseases, which can be explained by natural causes, from other 
cures or restorations, which cannot be thus explained. Men 
believed that the Saint could heal all bodily unsoundness. 
They assumed that he must have had the will to heal the 
wound of the man who had stood valiantly by him at the 
last. How then could they fail (unless acquainted with 
Grim, and confronted with the obstinate fact of his continued 
disablement) to infer that St. Thomas must have exercised 
his undoubted power for his faithful clerk ? l 

23. Contrast between the Saga and a contemporary letter 

[448] (16) In contrast with the last may be placed a 
brief extract from the letter from the Archbishop of Sens to 
the Pope written immediately after hearing of the murder : l 
" And since, after the departure of the holy man, through 
the operation of the Lord, we have heard (on the frequent 
testimony of many) that certain things worthy of note have 
come to pass, they ought not to be passed over in utter 
silence. For it is said and constantly asserted that after his 

1 For the Saga's legend about the miraculous impression of the Martyr's last 
footprints on the pavement where he stood and fell, see 192. For another version 
of the healing of Grim, see 810. 

1 Mat. vii. 431. It was probably written by Herbert (350). 


Passion he appeared in a vision to many to whom he declared 
that he was not dead but alive, showing no wounds but only 
the scars of wounds." This probably refers to Benedict's 
vision on the night after the murder. It makes no mention 
of any acts of healing. 2 

24. The singular value of Benedicts testimony 

[449] Confining ourselves to the very earliest of the 
acts of healing, we may say that very rarely have so-called 
miracles been recorded in circumstances more favourable for 
ascertaining the truth. No doubt, the monks who recorded 
them desired to believe they were miraculous. But they 
wrote amid a multitude of watchful enemies, able to detect, 
and on the alert to detect, imposture, to whom such detection 
would have afforded a delightful triumph. For their own 
sakes, therefore, the monks would be bound to confine them- 
selves to facts. 

And Benedict's testimony has this singular value that, 
in the early days of the miracles, it appears to have been set 
down in writing at the time, as each miracle occurred or 
came to the knowledge of the monks. Moreover, the 
contrast between his frank and moderate accounts and the 
exaggerations of others who were not eye-witnesses, should 
deepen our faith in the former, since it shows how strong the 
current set in favour of exaggerations (among the lower 
clergy and the poorer laymen) and leads us to infer that 
Benedict must have been a man of exact and temperate 
mind, to state his facts so fairly. In some cases, where the 
cure was wrought in the Cathedral, he was an eye-witness of 

2 One MS. of the letter, besides inserting "visions to an ancient monk named 
Neel," adds a recovery of sight by a blind man " by anointing his eyes with the 
blood while it was still fresh (crudo)." This is " omnino auditum. " A relighting 
of candles round the tomb is "non infida multorum relatio." The scribe adds, 
as a greater miracle, the blessing given by the dead Saint to those round the bier 
when he lay before the high altar "about dawn." See 432-3. 


the alleged miracle itself, and, in others, 'of the consequences 
of the miracle attested by the patient afterwards coming to 
the Martyr's tomb, accompanied by witnesses corroborating 
the patient's statement and offering themselves for examina- 
tion by the monk whose business it was to test the evidence. 
[450] On the supposition that Benedict's account of the 
beginning and growth of the miracles is substantially true, 
we are enabled to understand many phenomena, before 
hardly intelligible, in the early Christian Church ; and, in 
particular, the effect exercised on the minds and imaginations 
of vast numbers of the poor, the afflicted, and the diseased, 
by a faith in some Champion of the oppressed and miserable, 
himself destroyed by the oppressor, yet conceived as still 
living and acting, with hand stretched out to heal and bless 
those who invoke his aid. The incredulity of the comfortable 
and intellectual classes, and the active discouragement, or 
persecution, practised by the classes possessing political 
power, instead of quenching, tend to augment the flames of 
such a faith. Noised abroad through the land, the story of 
the Martyr brings home to thousands of sufferers in far 
distant hovels the very form of his body, the garments that 
he wore, and the wounds that he received in his last 
moments, so that when he appears in a vision or ecstasy to 
the sick and sorrowful, they see the red blood-line " stretching 
from the right temple down to the left cheek," and can 
describe him, says Benedict, "just as if they had actually 
seen him." Such a record ought to make it easy to believe 
St. Paul's account of the miracle-working habitual among 
the early Christians. 




i . Benedicts list compared with William's x 

[451] It was not till Easter 1171 that miracles came in 
crowds. At first each single one was a great event, eagerly 
welcomed by the monks, and not to be despised though 
performed on women and poor folk. Hence Benedict's list 
of patients contains, in the first thirty, about an equal 
proportion of males and females, whereas William, in the 
same number, gives little more than a seventh to the latter. 
As might be expected, also, the earliest patients are from 
Canterbury, London, and the Home Counties. 

[452] Here are the first thirty cases recorded severally 
by Benedict and William. It will be seen that the latter 
gives a larger proportion of priests or clergy, and a good 
many foreigners. William gives the first place to a miracle 
of a very remarkable nature (see below 596) authenticated 
by the burgesses of Bedford. Then he places one performed 
on a woman of the same village. William's fourth, sixth, 
seventh, and eighth cases are of epilepsy, or " falling sickness." 
This illustrates his principles if they can be so called of 
arrangement. He is influenced sometimes (i) by strength 
of testimony, at others (2) by similarity of disease (or even 
of name of patient), (3) by identity of locality, either of the 

1 In the following section, Roman followed by Arabic numbers mean a volume 
and page of the Materials (la). 




miracle, or of the testifier to the miracle. Benedict's work 
also, in its later parts some of which do not proceed from 
his pen adopts occasionally these irregular classifications. 

BENEDICT (ii. 37-66). 

[453] (I) Emma, wife of a knight in 
Sussex (Blindness). 

(2) Huelina, daughter of Aaliza of 

London : cured at Gloucester 
(Complaint in head). 

(3) William Belet, knight, of Enborne 

in Berkshire (Swelling in arm). 

(4) Brithivaof Canterbury (Blindness). 

(5) William, priest, of London (Para- 


(6) Stephen, knight, of Hoyland 

(" Nocturnal terrors "). 

(7) William Patrick, servant of 

William of Warbleton (Pains 
in the jaw). 

(8) Robert, son of a knight of Surrey 

(Disease of Liver). 

(9) Alditha of Worth, near Sandwich 

(Saved in child bearing). 

(10) Miracle concerning the Saint's 

blood (Ulviva). 

(11) Miracle concerning the Saint's 

blood (At Colchester : Radulf, 
a monk of Canterbury). 

(12) Miracle concerning the Saint's 

blood (Near Colchester). 

(13) Miracle concerning the Saint's 

blood (William, priest of 

(1 4) Miracle concerning the Saint's 

blood (A "pardoner"). 

(15) Daughter of Ralph of Bourne 

(Condition approaching death). 

WILLIAM 2 (i. 155-187). 

(1) Ailward of Westoning (Blinding 

and Mutilation). 

(2) Levive of Westoning (Dropsy). 

(3) Son of a knight of Pontefract 


(4) Petronilla, a nun of Polesworth 


(5) A monk (A severe cough). 

(6) An Italian and his son (Epilepsy). 

(7) William of St. Albans (Epilepsy). 

(8) Emma, wife of the Bishop of 

Winchester's steward (Epi- 

(9) Nicholas, the little son of Nicholas 

of the neighbourhood of Glas- 

tonbury (Lameness). 
(10) A baby, six months old (Internal 

( n) Robert, priest near Lincoln (111 


(12) Alan of Lindsey, priest (Grievous 


(13) Richard of Coventry, and his wife 

and grandson (Various ail- 

(14) Robert, son of Guy of Chichester 

(" extreme sickness "). 

(15) Robert of Marton, clerk (Bleed- 

ing to death). 

2 This list does not include the visions or miracles of chastisement which 
William prefixes to these. 


(i 6) Audrey, living at Canterbury ( 1 6) Baldwin of Fontenelle, in Flanders 
(Fever). (Contraction of muscles), and 

Heiliff of (?) Cherneside (Bed- 

(17) William, son of a citizen of Can- (17) Symon, Canon of Beverley (State 

terbury (? Tumour). resembling death). 

(18) Goditha, wife of Matthew of Can- (18) Ralph, a clerk, of (?) Chingford 

terbury (Swelling in legs). (Ulcers). 

(19) Samson, from Oxfordshire (Dumb- (19) Richard, Canon' of Chichester 

ness). (Fistula). 

(20) Geldwin, son of a baker of Can- (20) Odo of Aldrington (Ulcer). 

terbury (Long sickness). 

(21) Two other sons of the baker (21) William, a clerk, of Lincoln 

(Fever). (Ulcers). 

(22) Manwin, a poor man of Canter- (22) Adelicia of Lincoln (Disease in 

bury (Blindness). breast). 

(23) Emmeline of Canterbury (Lame- (23) Ralph de la Saussaie (Dysentery). 


(24) Edilda of Canterbury (Lameness : (24) A young man "de villa Dyena" 

a partial cure). (A festering wound). 

(25) Wlviva of Canterbury (Lameness). (25) A young man of (?) Marcham, 

Berks (A festering wound). 

(26) Edmund of Canterbury (Partial (26) Adam, a knight, near Winches- 

blindness, and an internal ob- ter (Piles), 


(27) Muriel, on the point of death, (27) Thomas of Beverley (Swelling of 

brings up fruit-stones, acorns, neck and jaw), 

etc., and is cured. 

(28) Ethelburga (Gouty pain in arm). (28) Paul of Rouen, a vinedresser 


(29) Robert, a smith, of Thanet (29) Roger of Middleton (Dropsy). 


(30) Henry of Fordwych (Madness). (30) Robert of Bromton, a knight 


2. Miracles of January, 1171 

[454] It is a remarkable testimony to the rapidity with 
which news travelled in those days, that the second miracle 
occurred at Gloucester on the fifth day after the Martyrdom 
(2 Jan.). Huelina, daughter of Aaliza of London, 1 had been 
liable, from her fifth to her sixteenth year, to a monthly 



swelling of the head which, while it lasted, rendered the 
whole body almost immoveable, and made rest and sleep 
impossible. Potions, caustic, and other remedies had been 
tried in vain. The girl happened to be suffering as usual, 
when the mother, hearing of the Martyr's death, and believing 
that England "had gained rather than lost a champion," 
invoked St. Thomas, promising a pilgrimage in her daughter's 
name, should she be cured. Scarcely had she uttered the 
words when the girl turned on her side and fell asleep, and 
the disease was from that moment eradicated. " We after- 
wards heard," says Benedict, " both [mother and daughter], 
and examined the matter with our own eyes ; and we came 
to the conclusion that credit must be given to this miracle." 

[455] No other witnesses are mentioned, so that the 
evidence is rather below that of many other miracles in 
Benedict's book ; and he himself seems to imply that they 
had some scruples about it, and might perhaps not have 
accepted it but for another miracle wrought on the following 
day (3 Jan.) on a knight in Berkshire. This would of course 
reach their ears some time before the Gloucester miracle. 
Moreover a poor woman of Canterbury recovered her sight 
on 4 Jan. Hence the monks might naturally argue that 
the same power that worked miracles qn the third and 
fourth of January might very well work one on the second. 2 
However, they did their best, he says, to ascertain the truth 
by a rigid cross-examination "for the sake of others and 
especially because of the slanders of maligners." Taken in 

2 He speaks of the miracle as " approved by a decision of irrefragible testimony 
(miraculo huic . . . irrefragibilis testimonii sententia comprobato) " ; and he adds 
that, if they had rejected it, they would have been convicted of want of faith 
by the marvel of the following day (3 Jan.), which seemed by its unshaken testi- 
mony to support the sign that preceded it. Does " sententia " mean the decision 
of the monks in Chapter, or of some ecclesiastical authority at Gloucester ? If 
the latter, would it not have been mentioned? In " Alioquin argueret nos 
incredulitatis diei sequentis prodigium, quod praecedenti signo inconcusso 
videbatur testimonio suffragari," the sense seems to demand that "inconcusso" 
should qualify " testimonio." 


conjunction with the circumstances, the facts thus recorded 
by Benedict may reasonably be accepted as being substan- 
tially correct, and, if they are, many will believe that the 
cure was not a mere sequence but a consequence of an 
emotional shock, probably conveyed through the mother to 
the daughter, who may be supposed to have been present 
when the vow was made to St. Thomas. 

[456] The third miracle was wrought on a venerable 
knight William Belet, widely known and of good repute, in 
a town of Berkshire (" quae Anglice Aeinesburna vocatur "). 3 
For three months he had been confined to his bed by a 
terrible pain in his left arm, which had swollen to the thick- 
ness of his thigh. Coming home from church, in tears, his 
wife told him the news of the murder, and he besought the 
Martyr to deliver him, promising a pilgrimage if he were 
healed. " When he ended his prayer, his pain found the 
beginning of its end " : he was refreshed by an unusually 
sweet sleep on the night that followed ; and, when he awoke, 
his pain was gone, and his left arm no bigger than the right. 
Benedict does not say that the knight's promised pilgrimage 
was fulfilled ; but elsewhere he mentions vows, if unfulfilled. 
So we may infer here that the knight came to Canterbury, 
and that Benedict records the facts from his testimony. 

[457] The next day (4 Jan.) a poor woman of Canter- 
bury miraculously recovered her sight. 4 Going to the house 
of a neighbour, she besought her to lend her any relic of the 
Martyr that she might touch her eyes with it. We have 
seen above that many people in Canterbury had dipped 
strips from their garments in the Martyr's blood at the time 
of the murder. Accordingly, the neighbour produced a rag 
thus stained. " The blind woman touched her eyes and 
wiped away her darkness. She had come guided. She 
returned without guidance." 

3 ii. 40-41. 4 H. 41. 


[458] On the eighth day 5 occurred the healing of the 
paralytic Priest, William of London, mentioned above. This 
was the first instance in which the blood of the Martyr, 
mingled with water, was given to any patient by the monks : 
and the practice " was not begun," says Benedict, " without 
great fear : but when it was seen that the sick benefited 
thereby, fear gave way, and by degrees was succeeded by 
confidence." By " fear," he means fear of profanity : for 
the fear of persecution did not disappear till several months 
afterwards. The Priest, says Benedict, " returned rejoicing, 
and magnifying the Lord in His Martyr, yet secretly for 
fear of the Jew-like persecutors Jew-like, I say, because, 
even as the Jews were fain to blot out the name of Christ 
whom they had slain, so were these desirous of extinguishing 
the glory of the Martyr whom they had destroyed. . . . But 
in vain did they attempt to hide the rays of the sun." 

[459] This prepares the way for the next miracle, 
performed on Stephen, a knight of Hoyland, 6 who had been 
for thirty years liable to a nightly oppression or suffocation, 
which so afflicted him that he would beg the servants who 
watched near his couch to pull him up by the hair of his 
head, when what he called " the demon " leaped upon him. 
Twice, even during the banishment of the Archbishop, he 
had been temporarily benefited by an appeal to God " for, 
the love of " His exile ; but when, on hearing of his death, 
he had caused mass to be celebrated for him, he was entirely 
delivered. True, the demon still sometimes appeared to him 
in the form of a dwarf 7 running round and round him as 
though trying to get at him. But the knight defied him in 
the name of the blessed Martyr : and from that hour the 
phantom troubled him no more. After waiting to satisfy 

6 " 42. e ii. 44 . 

7 [4590] The Editor justly remarks that the unfamiliar word "nani (dwarf)" 
is more likely to be correct than the readings "navi (ship)," "avis (bird)." 
" Nani " was probably first corrupted to " navi," and then " navi " was altered to 
"avis," for sense. 


himself that his deliverance was complete and permanent, he 
came on foot to the Martyr's memorial : " His humility was 
clearly proved by the despicable garb 8 he had assumed. 
His discourse, as he told his story, savoured of a marvellous 
joy : in our presence he extolled with a wonderful passionate- 
ness the Martyr who, while living, had once, nay twice, 
rescued him from extreme misery, and now, after death, had 
given him permanent deliverance." 

3. Lent, 1171 

[460] The miracle next recorded took place about the 
middle of February. William Patrick, servant of William of 
Warbleton, 1 was delivered from pain in the jaw, which had 
caused him such paroxysms that he had been almost put 
under restraint as a madman. The man saw, in a vision, 
one who declared that he was a clerk of my lord of Canter- 
bury. " Do not say that to any one," replied he. " It is 
not safe." The figure replied, " I am not afraid of them ; it 
is for them, not for me, to tremble. See, I have a letter 
from my lord the Pope that all concerned in the Martyr's 
death must be punished." Then, mentioning by name some 
one whom St. Thomas had been wont to call in his letters 
the son of perdition, 2 he said, " As for him, he goes straight 
to the pit of hell : but what ails you ? " On being informed, 
he bade the man open his mouth, and waving the air into it 
with his mantle, applied the border to the patient's cheek. 
" He awoke, and found himself freed from all pain." Benedict 
adds that the young man described exactly, to the astonish- 
ment of those who heard him, the pallium of the Archbishop. 
But, as this miracle happened at the beginning of Lent, and 
was not reported by Patrick before Whitsunday, by which 

8 Odo of Falaise (547) assumed the garb of a beggar as a disguise, to avoid 
the displeasure of the King. 

1 ii. 46. 2 Ranulf de Broc. 


time the tide of miracles was flowing strongly and the person 
and clothing of the Martyr must have been known by talk 
and pictures in almost every poor household in England, we 
may be unable to share in Benedict's astonishment about this 
detail, and may even suspect that the young man had, con- 
sciously or unconsciously, elaborated the circumstances of 
his vision. 

[461] Another miracle performed about the middle of 
Lent on one Robert, son of a knight in Surrey, 3 was like 
the last not reported till Whitsuntide. This was an acute 
case of disease of the liver, which none of the London 
physicians could cure. Not till they had despaired of the 
patient and sent him back to his Surrey home where he lay 
in bed for eleven weeks, did he " return to himself and flee 
to St. Thomas." The same hour that witnessed his prayer 
witnessed his amendment. Grateful for his recovery, he had 
" a vehement desire to come in haste to Canterbury : but 
seeing the wind of persecution as yet strong, he feared to go 
thither, and put off the fulfilment of his desire to a less 
dangerous time." This implies that, by Whitsuntide 1171, 
a change had taken place in the attitude, or at least the 
action, of the authorities toward the Canterbury pilgrims. 

[462] Alditha of Worth, near Sandwich, 4 is next recorded 
(without date) to have been saved from death in child-bearing 
by faith and by the application of a handkerchief that had 
been blessed by the Martyr. No witnesses are mentioned : 
but the priest from whom she had received the sacrament in 
expectation of death, and by whose advice the handkerchief 
was applied, might naturally attest the case. 

[463] Then follows an instance of the miraculous mul- 
tiplication of the Saint's blood in a wooden vessel, attested 
on oath by Ulviva, the lady principal of a leper-house. This 
is accepted by Benedict, partly on her testimony, partly 

3 ii. 47- * ii. 48. 


because of a second instance 5 attested by the monks of 
Colchester Abbey. The former may be an error of mal- 
observation. In the latter, the most obvious conclusion is 
that the blood had been diluted by some zealous monk at 
Colchester before the glass vial was publicly opened there. 
The Colchester monks also told another similar tale. 6 After 
washing the wax stopper of their vial, they enclosed in a pyx 
the water in which the wax had been washed, as a present 
to a neighbouring church. The priest first placed it on the 
altar, but afterwards transferred it to his own house. Next 
morning the pyx was found split, and not a drop remained. 
" Thus," says Benedict, " the blood was given and multiplied 
for those for whom the Divine Ordinance so willed it : and 
from him to whom it was not given, even that which he 
seemed to have was taken away." 

[464] We need not suspect the Colchester monks of 
deliberately neutralizing their present by giving it in a leaky 
pyx : for something similar is recorded soon afterwards. 
William of Bourne, a venerable priest, 7 gave some of the 
blood in a pyx of boxwood to a travelling preacher or 
Pardoner, whom Benedict seems not to rate highly. The 
pyx was immediately broken when it touched the holy Water, 8 
but the wax prevented the spilling of the blood. Yet next 
morning the Pardoner, who had taken it to his home, found 
not a trace of blood. The reason for this was much discussed : 
" but not a few conjectured, and with some probability, that 
the man's intentions were open to the charge of avarice." 
Subsequently, however, such cases became so common that 
tin vials were invented and completely displaced the wooden 

5 ". 50. 6 ii. 52. 7 ii. 53. 

8 " Ad contactum sanctuarii " : comp. ii. 70 "ilia . . . sanctuarii non ferens 
virtutem," "the pyx . . . not enduring the divine force of the holy Water" i.e. 

the Water of Canterbury, which was water containing a 
Saint's blood. 

small portion of the 


[465] This same William of Bourne 9 also saved a little 
child at the point of death by wrapping it in the Martyr's 
pall (which was in his possession) : and along with this 
miracle is mentioned one 10 described above, in which 
William, the son of a Canterbury citizen, was healed when 
he had lost his speech and had so swollen that he seemed 
near bursting by drinking of the blood in accordance with 
a vision. The last miracle recorded as happening before 
Easter is the cure of Goditha, wife of Matthew of Canterbury, 11 
who could not walk by reason of horrible swellings in her 
legs. Two women carried her secretly to the tomb, and 
the tinctured water was applied. The swelling abated ; but 
apparently not at once, for she departed secretly. However, 
she improved every day, and speedily regained perfect vigour. 

Benedict concludes his first book by saying, " These, and 
several more were the great acts that the Lord wrought 
before Easter : but these are small and almost to be despised 
in comparison with those which follow." 

4. Easter, 1171 

[466] On Easter day there could be no service in the 
Cathedral because it had not yet been purified from the 
murder. But a vast crowd suddenly rushed into it, drawn 
by a report of the extraordinary contortions of a dumb 
man, who l wallowed foaming, and kept falling and bruising 
himself. At last, settling down, in a scarcely intelligible 
voice, he asked for something to drink. His speech could 
hardly be understood ; but he said that he had been born in 
Oxfordshire, and had lost his speech five years before, sleeping 
out in a meadow ; he had fallen asleep a healthy man ; he 
woke up, dumb. 

Recently, two figures of reverend aspect had appeared to 
him in a dream, saying that the Martyr's tomb was the only 

9 " 54- 10 ". 55- " ii. 56. 1 ii. 57. 


place in the world where he could be cured. He called himself 
Samson. A good many believed, but some doubted. He 
brought no witnesses, but the monks had this strong proof of 
his veracity, that, although he stayed some time with them 
and made some progress, he could not attain to perfect 
clearness of speech. He had been lately living in Rochester, 
and the monks made inquiries there, but elicited nothing 
contrary to the man's statements. Moreover, says Benedict, 
" I often conversed with the host with whom he had stayed 
for several days. He told me he had over and over again 
made the lad drunk, but could never extract from him a 
single word [to contradict his story], though it is an old and 
true proverb that through lads and liquor one can extract the 
truth. We therefore exclaimed . . . ' This is the day that 
the Lord hath made, let us rejoice and be glad therein.' " 

Taking into consideration the fact that this " mute," as 
soon as he spoke, " asked for something to drink," that his 
host found no difficulty in making him " over and over again 
drunk," and that no testimony from any clerk or priest is 
alleged proving that the man had ever been dumb, we can 
hardly feel surprised that about this miracle " some doubted." 
And Benedict himself seems to have had some difficulty in 
working himself up to such a state of mind that he could 
" rejoice and be glad therein." 

[467] On the same Easter Sunday 2 a child in Canter- 
bury who had lain for three days voiceless and speechless 
without food or drink was restored by drinking the Water, 
and afterwards 3 two brothers of this child were healed of 
fever. Thus, as miracles became gradually numerous, " the 
rest of the sick folk of Canterbury by degrees resorted to the 
Martyr. Among these one Manwin, 4 poor but well known in 
the city, had lost his sight for almost two years. Obtaining 
a drop of the blood from a neighbour, he had been led home 

2 ii. 58. 3 ii. 59. * Ib. 


as usual. Scarcely had he bathed his eyes when one of his 
little children fell and began to cry. Stooping to lift the 
little one, he brushed the moisture off and saw the child 
before he lifted it : " The city of Canterbury, which knows 
that he was blind before, knows equally that he afterwards 
regained his sight." 

[468] Emeline of Canterbury 5 was cured in the 
Cathedral on the same Easter Sunday. She had been 
lamed by a fall four years before, and could not walk a step 
without a crutch. Drawn by the reports about the miracles, 
she came to the Cathedral to invoke the Martyr. Presently 
her soul was stirred within her and she fell down (contur- 
bata corruit) in the exact place where the dumb man above 
mentioned had fallen. There, in agony and convulsion 
(volutatione), she spent the whole day. When night came 
on, " she departed, wearied, but healed. Still, we advised 
her to support her wearied frame on her crutch. But she 
despised it." 

[469] During all this time the multitude had not been 
admitted publicly or freely to the Martyr's tomb. The 
doors of the crypt had been kept closed and barred. If 
any one was admitted it was in secret. But now the people 
began to murmur. The monks were warned that they 
might seem to be hiding the talent entrusted to them by 
God, and to be envying the Martyr his glory and the 
sick the blessing of health. Moved by these reproaches, 
they threw open the crypt to the people on Friday in Easter 
week. From that time, says Benedict, the scene of the pool 
of Bethesda was being continually renewed in the Cathedral, 
and great and wonderful miracles were of daily occurrence. 
Incidentally, in a previous passage, he describes himself as 
attending to the sick folk who were " lying in pain all about 
the church." 6 

5 ii. 60. 

6 ii. 47 "per totam ecclesiam laborantibus. " This was about Whitsuntide. 


[470] Among these were two lame women, 7 Edilda 
(or Elditha) and Wlviva, both of Canterbury. Benedict's 
temperate account of their cure commends itself to belief. 
The latter, who had been for three years bowed down by 
Satan and could not walk without a crutch, arose erect after 
a short prayer and " refused now to bear the staff that had 
once borne her." The former, who had not set foot to 
ground for a year and a half, was brought into the church 
by three women, leaning on a staff and with her left knee 
suffering from the least touch. She returned with her pain 
assuaged : "In token of her cure, she violently struck her 
knee with her clenched fist in presence of us all : and the 
people saw her walking and praising God. . . . But why 
she remained lame and did not obtain a complete recovery 
we omit to discuss, judging it safer to keep entire silence 
concerning the hidden judgments of God than rashly to 
infer anything from them (inde temere diffinire)." 

[471] Edmund of Canterbury 8 was blind of one eye 
and had been for two years troubled by something that 
seemed to shift its place in his left side, causing him strange 
prickings and wonderful tortures. When a drop of the 
Martyr's blood was applied to his eye (and he also drank it), 
" he threw himself on his face, then on his side, struggling and 
shrieking : often he would try to get up, but could not stand 
steady ; down he fell on his face, dashed on the stones ; his 
visit seemed to be doing him nothing but mischief, and you 
would have thought him mad. ... At last, he found relief 
in slumber, and fell fast asleep on his back. The Saint of 
God stood by the sleeper, and took him by the shoulder 
and shook him, saying, ' Arise, go forth.' Immediately 
awaking, he felt that the shifting thing that caused him such 
internal torture was being driven to the lower part of his 
throat. To save himself from suffocation he reached his 

7 ii. 6 1 -2. 8 ii. 62. 


hand down to touch and see what it was. Suddenly, as 
though a bladder had burst, the thing was driven out of his 
mouth by some power of God, and he felt a taste like gall. 
Forthwith he rose up, threw off his cloak and went to the 
Martyr's tomb to give thanks : and, in return for the restora- 
tion of his eye and his health, he took the cross with a 
pledge to go to Jerusalem for the love of the Martyr. And 
all the people, when they saw it, gave praise unto God." 

[472] In the case of Muriel 9 (apparently of Canterbury), 
diseased for two years, the tinctured water at first seemed to 
fail, and indeed to make her, for three days, worse than 
before. On the third day, she was so ill that she was taken 
out of bed, " lest, contrary to the custom of the Christian 
religion, she should die on a feather bed (plumis)." The 
Priest came in haste to administer extreme unction. But 
unexpectedly she threw up a mass of cherry-stones, plum- 
stones, and acorns, some of which were sprouting and " were 
shewn to us. ... Nor can there be a doubt that they would 
have speedily effected the sick woman's death, but for the 
aid of the holy draught." On the next day, the woman 
came on foot to the Martyr's tomb : " and all the people 
rejoiced because of all the things that were gloriously wrought 
by him." 

[473] This miracle may be a mere coincidence, or rather 
a mere sequence. The vomiting may have followed the 
drinking of the potion but not have been caused by it. But 
it raises an interesting question, suggested also by several 
other miracles where the drinking of the potion was followed 
by vomiting, or the application of the lotion by grievous 
pain. While the monks were mixing the blood with water 
might they not think themselves justified in blending the 
water with some medicinal drug ? This could not well be 
done in the instances where water was sent to places at a 

ii. 63. 

5? 475 HIS MIRACLES 263 

distance, no special disease being in view : but it might be 
done at the tomb. And might it not be compatible with 
the faith of the monks in the Martyr's blood that it should 
be combined with some remedy to strengthen the weaker 
faith of the recipient ? It is quite conceivable that, in many 
diseases, a faith-cure might be made more easy and more 
rapid if the patient first found the Martyr's potion producing 
some definite and powerful effect on him. 

[474] To return to the sick people of Canterbury and 
the neighbourhood. Ethelburga, 10 a matron known to the 
monks for her good works, was cured of a pain in her left 
shoulder from the moment when she measured her arm with 
a thread with the view of offering a wax candle of that size 
to the Saint. Robert, a smith, of Thanet, blind for two 
years, had been ordered in a vision of the preceding December 
to go to Canterbury and to have " milk " put on his eyes by 
one of the monks. 11 But not till the Easter outburst of 
miracles did he recognize that a Martyr's blood is the sweet- 
est " milk." Then he came with his wife and daughter, and, 
says the chronicler, after anointing his eyes, he prostrated 
himself for prayer, and felt " a thunder-clap " go off in his 
head : " receiving his sight, he arose, and gave public thanks 
to God." 

[475] About the same time, the mad Henry of Fordwich 12 
was dragged by his friends to the tomb, with his hands tied 
behind him, struggling and shouting, and there remained all 
day, but began to recover as the sun went down, and, after a 
night spent in the church, returned home in perfect sanity. 
From the same neighbourhood 13 came a woman, whose name 
is not mentioned (perhaps owing to the multitude of cases 
at this time). She was deaf and troubled with pain in the 
head. The mixture above mentioned was poured into her 
ears, and also given her as a potion : then she devoted 

10 ii. 64. u ii. 65, "milk," see 771 (6). 12 ii. 66. 13 Ib. 


herself to prayer. As she prayed, " she was tortured worse 
than ever and thought a number of little twigs were being 
broken to pieces inside her, asking the bystanders whether 
they heard the sound in her head. So while she was in this 
trouble she cried unto the Lord and He heard her. For, 
while she cried, there was a breakage as it were of an 
apostheme and a flow of matter from her ears, followed by 
a flow of blood, and this, in turn, followed by the blessing 
of restored hearing." 

5. Two disappointments 

[476] On two occasions, however, the Saint expressly 
told the patients not to expect a cure. 1 Both were boys. 
The former, lame, while resting his head on the tomb, un- 
fortunately fell asleep. " Why do you lie on me ? " said the 
holy Father, suddenly appearing, " You shall certainly not 
recover. Go hence, I will do nothing for you." The boy 
awoke, and, relating his vision to his mother and the monks, 
caused himself to be removed to another place. " We bade 
him," says Benedict, " still devote himself to prayer." But 
though the poor boy consented, he was hopeless of changing 
the Saint's decision : and no benefit in the way of recovery 

[477] The second case was still harder. Some one 
appeared to the boy as he slept, and said, " Why do you He 
here? The Archbishop sends you word you shall certainly 
not be healed. Sin, committed before your birth, deprives 
you of recovery." "This," says Benedict, "does not lead 
us to believe that the son bore the iniquity of his parents, 
but rather that the Lord desired to scourge the parents in 
the son in order that the bodily loss of the son might be a 
punishment of sorrow for the parents. Accordingly, a few 
days afterwards the boy departed this life. I confess, we 

1 ii. 67. 


grieved and sympathised sorely with both these lads . . . 
but we were gladdened by the Martyr in other cases." 

6. The Water of Canterbury 

[478] Of the " cases " above mentioned, the first that 
occurs to Benedict is one of the successful use of " the Water 
of St. Thomas " or " the Water of Canterbury," as the tincture 
had now come to be called in districts round the city. 
Agnes of Canterbury l suffered five weeks from a horrible 
putrefying tumour in the face and a flow of phlegm. After 
she had drunk the Water, there fell from her mouth into the 
basin of phlegm a four-footed worm, one and a half inches 
long, so agile that some said it came from the Enemy 2 : 
yet when plunged in the phlegm (so it was thought) and 
placed in an upper window, it disappeared. 

[479] At this point 3 Benedict inserts a number of 
instances in which the Water was lost owing to the splitting 
of the pyx containing it. How the sacred Water slipped 
this way and that, and bubbled as though boiling, and finally 
vanished ; how one person was consequently impelled to 
confess " every sin he could think of, and that, not to one, 
but to thirteen priests " ; how another, having been induced 
to carry her pyx into the house of a friendly Jewess whom 
she had been in the habit of obliging with an occasional 
charm or incantation as an antidote against pains in the feet 
was warned to leave " the accursed house " by the splitting 
of her pyx from top to bottom ; and how persistently the 
Water that remained in the pyx of the pious refused to 

1 ii. 68. 

2 " cursuque suo tantae se vivacitatis esse ostendit ut a nonnullis de ad versa 
parte esse diceretur ; in phlegmate tamen, ut putabatur, submersus, et in edition 
fenestra positus, non comparuit," A similar experience was told to Dr. Gray by 
the present (1898) Ameer of Afghanistan as having occurred to himself, with 
manifest expectation of t being believed. Here the narrator is very candid in 
admitting that the worm could not afterwards be found. 

3 ii. 69-73. 


remain when poured into that of the impious all these 
" mirthful miracles (jucunditatis miracula) " are here related 
by Benedict in a digression from which he speedily returns 
to " the facts that preceded in chronological order." 4 

[480] William, an old knight, of Dene 5 in the neigh- 
bourhood of Canterbury, long paralysed in his legs and feet, 
was brought on horseback to the Cathedral, held on by a 
servant on each side lest he should fall. Leaning on them 
and a staff he was brought to the tomb : " There, on fervently 
invoking God, and His Martyr, he felt his legs and feet 
regaining their sensibility, his muscles becoming warm, and 
his whole body receiving as it were a gift of easy motion." 
He threw off his cloak, leapt forward amid a crowd of 
spectators, and felt that he was healed. Then he sat down, 
took off his shoes, and with bare feet prostrated himself 
before the Saint. Finally, he returned on foot without help, 
and mounted his horse amid general rejoicing, leaving his 
crutch behind as a sign of his restoration. 

[481] Saxeva, of Dover, 6 suffering from intestinal disease 
(incisione viscerum) and continual pain in the arm, from 
Christmas to Easter, was weary of living. She fled for aid 
to the Martyr, and prayed and slept near his tomb. The 
Martyr appeared to her. " ' Rise,' he said, ' offer thy candle.' 
She leapt up, and found herself healed. Then she obeyed 
the command, and shewed herself so agile that she hyper- 
bolically declared she could fly like a bird." 

[482] A scholar (scholasticus) of Northampton, Richard 
son of Walter, 7 had suffered for nine years, first from diarrhoea, 

4 Benedict does not seem to take a severe view of those who are thus eluded 
by the Saint (ii. 71): " Nonne lusisse videtur hie martyr cum homine . . .? 
Ludus martyris dicendus est an reprehensio ? " Still he implies that the men are 
in fault, not the pyx. It would be interesting to know whether the pyx was 
generally supplied by the monks. In one case the pyx belonged to the pilgrim 
Ralph of Sheppey, who'(ii. 69) "pyxidem ligneam ad aquam suscipiendam pro- 
tulit " ; Ralph emptied the water into another, apparently supplied by himself. 
Then, says Benedict, " we obliged him with a third, keeping the two (ourselves)." 

6 ii. 73- 6 " 74- r Ib. 


then from liver-complaint. His illness had begun with a 
nightly vision of a terrible figure, which had commanded 
him to choose between death in nine days, or a living death 
for nine years. He chose the latter. 

[483] The phantom struck him with his fist, and he 
awoke, unable to walk, 'and suffering from continual dysentery. 
No physicians had been able to help him. Towards the end 
of the ninth year, a little brother of his saw in a dream a 
beautiful man who said that the sick man was to go to 
Canterbury, and to Canterbury he went. To walk or ride 
was impossible, so he was drawn in a carriage. The nearer 
he came to the city the more he felt that his disease was 
departing. " He left his carriage and approached the Martyr 
on foot. I never remember," writes the chronicler, " to have 
seen a man so lifeless-looking and pale. His skin scarce 
cleaved to his bones. His face was marred with, I cannot 
call it pallor, say rather dusky colour suggestive of putrefaction. 
Never was man more like a resuscitated corpse three or four 
days old. I must give up description. It would seem past 
belief. Such as he was, when he tasted the holy Water, he 
prostrated himself on the ground and prayed. Suddenly, as 
though in anguish, he began to howl and cry aloud, wallowing 
and writhing this way and that. Then, tired out, he fell 
asleep. He awoke restored to health. For some days 
after his recovery he stayed on at Canterbury, partly to en- 
sure that his recovery was permanent, partly for devotion's 
sake." During this period the monks asked him whether his 
mental condition had corresponded to his bodily state when 
his gesture and action seemed to proclaim him mad (arrep- 
titius). " He replied that he had been as it were in an 
ecstasy, but that at first he had felt that his stomach 
(which had been inflated) was being reduced and greatly 
compressed ; and that the church was too narrow for 
him (angustam sibi exstitisse ecclesiam). He could recol- 
lect no more." It is interesting to know that Benedict 


had received similar answers from many other ecstatic 

7. Danger from the enemies of St. Thomas 

[484] It was at this time, soon after Easter, that the 
Archbishop's enemies irritated, and perhaps alarmed, by 
the general and public outburst of miracles were suspected 
by the monks of planning to carry off the body. It was 
accordingly taken from its marble tomb and hidden behind 
the altar of the Virgin Mary. The monks had also prepared 
a force to resist the attempt, 1 and " that night there were as 
many watchers as monks in the church." But, adds Benedict, 
"the Lord also watched for us He who neither sleepeth 
nor slumbereth and scattered them by His power, as also 
was shewn to one of our brethren in a vision." This brother 
happened to be sick, apart from the rest, and ignorant of 
what was going on. But he saw a vision which was inter- 
preted to him as meaning that a terror from God should 
avert some danger impending on the Cathedral. Hearing 
the interpretation the brother awoke and besought the Lord 
for the defence of the Cathedral ; and there was suddenly a 
sound from heaven, and a horrible roaring of thunder and 
flaming of fire and lightnings and floods of rain and such a 
tempest as had not been known for years. 

[485] On the following day, Richard, son of Einold, 2 
was delivered from a contortion of the legs and feet which 
prevented him from walking in the usual way. It had 
come upon him nearly thirty-four years before, when, during 
the civil wars, he had taken the harvest of a poor woman, 
who had " cursed him in the name of the Lord." When he 
approached the Virgin's altar, behind which the Martyr's 
body was secreted, this strong man shook all over. Then 
he prostrated himself before the altar, " repeatedly falling 

1 ii. 77 " Parantur a nobis vires contrariae." 2 ii. 79. 


and rising, rising and falling again, and leapt forward above 
the altar (super altare) with a quickness and agility that 
even the healthiest and nimblest could scarcely equal ; and 
then again, as though in an agony, dashed himself headlong 
from the altar. We were wondering whether he had not 
broken his neck ; but after a long fit he arose from the 
ground, and from that time forward was able to stand like 
others on the soles of his feet." To the question why he 
had thus leapt on the altar he replied that he could do 
nothing but that which he was constrained to do by the 
power of the Mother of God and the Martyr of the Lord. 

[486] Mentioning another similar cure, 3 which however 
was followed by a temporary lameness, Benedict tells us 4 
that the number of miracles now became so numerous that 
the monks feared more than ever some attempt of the 
Archbishop's enemies to carry away the body. They accord- 
ingly determined to surround the tomb with a wall, leaving 
small apertures through which pilgrims could reach their 
heads to kiss the stone. This leads him to recount two or 
three instances extraordinary indications of the effect of 
imagination in which some found themselves able, while 
others, less large and stout, were unable, to put their heads 
through the apertures. In one case 5 a madman, full-grown 
and tall, thinking himself pursued by Satan, leapt head- 
foremost into the hole, and there, uncurling his body, placed 
his head near the Martyr's feet and his feet near the head. 
There he remained stretched out. The monks began to 
think they would have to destroy the structure, if they were 
ever to get him out again, when suddenly he emerged by 
another aperture. When he was cured, the monks asked him 
to repeat the action : but it could not be done either by him 
or by a lithe youth whom they caused to make the attempt. 

[487] On the day of the Finding of the Cross (3 May) 

3 ii. 80. 4 ii. 8 1. 5 ii. 82. 


there was to be seen lying in the Cathedral a great multi- 
tude of feeble folk, blind, lame, and withered, awaiting the 
Martyr's help. They were mostly from the southern or 
eastern counties, and if there had been impostors among 
them, the danger of detection would have been great in so 
large a concourse of pilgrims from their several neighbour- 
hoods. The pains, contortions, and diseases of several are 
described in painful detail, and it is said that as many as 
ten were cured on that day : " but some," says the chronicler, 
"we are unable to recall as they have slipped [from our 
memory] ; 6 some we rejected because they had no witness 
[to the truth of the story of their ailment]." In several of 
these cases Benedict records the gradualness or incomplete- 
ness of the cure. In one, 7 a miserly old woman from 
London, at death's door and insensible, was scarcely laid 
before the tomb when she received sense and speech, and, 
sitting up, besought the Martyr that she might either die at 
once on the spot or depart on her feet in health. The 
monks wondered at her presumption. But suddenly, " as 
though the Spirit of the Lord had fallen on her," she leapt 
up, went repeatedly round and round the tomb with a quick 
firm step, and returned to her lodging on foot. Next day, 
however, she had a relapse into weakness, and lost her wits 
besides : and this was attributed to her having abused the 
name of the Martyr in a false oath to her husband about 
the possession of some money. Presently, she became quiet 
and confessed her guilt. On this, she was carried back to 
the tomb, where she offered fervent prayer and penitence : 
" by the pity of heaven she again returned on her own feet, 
with her body whole, but her mind bordering on insanity. 
In course of time she completely recovered." 

6 ii. 86 "Sed quosdam elapsos revocare nequimus." If the text had "nequz- 
zmus," the meaning might be, "some slipped away, and we were unable to call 
them back [and ascertain their names]." This is a more natural way of render- 
ing " elabi " and "revocare." 7 ii. 90. 


[488] In spite of all these wonders, slander still raised 
its voice, asserting that the monks of Canterbury, by magic 
charms, first caused pilgrims to be possessed with devils 
and then cast the devils out. But this charge, says Bene- 
dict, was met by so vast and sudden a display of prodigies 
all over the country that, in order to make their words good, 
these slanderers would have had " to accuse all England of 
the aforesaid crime (of magic)." s 

[489] At this point Benedict inserts a miracle bearing 
on these slanders. A knight of the province of York, 
Thomas of Etton, having slandered the Martyr, was imme- 
diately punished by an attack of quinsy. Ascribing his 
illness to his fault, he repented, and was at once healed. 
As soon as possible, he hastened to the Martyr's tomb, where 
" he also testified that, subsequently, by invocation of the 
Martyr's name, he had been delivered from acute attacks 
of fever." 9 

8. Increase of Miracles after E 'aster ; 1171 

There follow a number of cures, some of which might 
be explained as coincidences, some as the results of sym- 
pathetic faith, some as the results of faith on the part of 
the patient, and in most there might be exaggeration ; but 
there is little probability of imposture. 

[490] A knight's lady, in Essex, as honourable as 
beautiful, 1 and known to the chronicler, was saved from 
death (after childbirth) when she was speechless and await- 
ing extreme unction, by a nurse who persuaded the knight 
to offer to St. Thomas in her behalf a candle as long and 
thick as the lady's body. Ralph Fitz Ralph of Lincolnshire, 2 
in a decline, after two days' hemorrhage, having vainly tried 
charms, herbs, and stones, was being prepared for death by 

8 ii. 91. 9 See Parallel Miracles (709). 

1 ii. 92 "non minus moribus honesta quam facie." 2 ii. 93. 


the last sacramental rites when his friends invoked the 
Martyr in his behalf, and, rising from their knees, found that 
the flow of blood had ceased. Diet soon restored his health 
and his parents accompanied him to Canterbury. Poor folk 
from London are next mentioned Matilda and Roger, 3 
whose illegitimate infant is saved by St. Thomas as soon as 
he is " measured for a candle " ; and Gilbert a shoemaker, 4 
suffering from fistula. The latter had a terrible journey to 
Canterbury on foot ; but, taking back the Water to London, 
he presently so recovered that he walked the whole fifty 
miles in one day to thank St. Thomas for his cure. There 
he stripped himself to shew that he was sound, and even 
challenged others to run him a race. 5 The same disease 
was cured for Hugh of Bourne, 6 after the physicians had 
given him up. He fell ill again on returning to work in 
the fields. So he went back to Canterbury, washed in the 
Water, and departed. There was no longer any issue of 
matter, and in eight days the flesh was completely sound. 

[491] The next miracle recorded is of a festive nature. 
An Essex farmer, Richard by name, 7 was dining with 
friends when his shepherd entered with a pyx. "What 
have you there, shepherd ? " He replied that it was the 
Canterbury Water. "Well," said Richard, "let this be a 
sign between us. If the Saint has let you bring the Water, 
then let us agree that you have served me faithfully. But 
if he has not left you a drop, then let us agree that he has 
proved you a thief." They both agreed. The pyx was 
opened and found absolutely dry. " Confess, my son," said 
the farmer, "give glory to God." The shepherd at first 
denied any kind of dishonesty, but as he could not deny 
that the pyx was remarkably solid and that he had brought 
the Water from his house, which was close by, he ultimately 

3 ii. 94. 4 Ib. 

5 ii. 95 " Et se ipsum nobis nudum et perfecte curatum ostendens, etiam 
alios ad cursum invitare non timuit." 6 ii. 95. 7 ii. 96. 


admitted that he had not been perfectly honest in making 
up his accounts of cheese and butter : " The fault was 
pardoned for love of the Saint, and became a general joke, 
redounding to the glory of the Martyr, and, as a monument 
and memorial of this festive miracle, the pyx was hung up 
in the church." 

[492] At St. Frideswide's, in Oxford, there appears to 
have been doubt about St. Thomas up to this time. One 
of their Canons 8 being so grievously ill that he could not 
so much as pronounce the Martyr's name, a brother ran to 
fetch the Water. Returning, he found him speechless and 
his eyes closed. He poured a drop down his throat. At 
once the Canon called out, " St. Thomas, have mercy," and 
sat up. Next day he returned to the regular conventual 
discipline. Then the Prior summoned two of the Canons 
who had been hitherto unconvinced, and asked them whether 
they were still waverers. They replied that they had no 
longer a particle of doubt. The Prior himself communicated 
these facts to Benedict together with a very long account of 
his own cure partly during, and partly following on, a 
pilgrimage to Canterbury. Another narrative 9 tells how a 
knight, suffering in the same way, was bidden in a vision to 
go on a pilgrimage : " Fail not to do this, whether it please 
thy wife or displease her." He could not walk ; and, even 
on horseback, could go only a mile the first day. But the 
further he went the more he improved. Reaching Canter- 
bury he spent the night in the Cathedral. There his pains 
were worse than ever ; but this increased his hopes of 
recovery, and he offered two waxen legs of the same size as 
his own. Next morning, says Benedict, he confessed that 
all pain had vanished : and so it had, leaving no trace. 
Afterwards the knight's wife herself came on pilgrimage to 
give thanks for her child's deliverance from fits of terror 

VOL. I 1 8 


during which he would cry out, " See where they come ! " 
" See where they come ! " The knight cured the first attack 
by hanging round the child's neck a shred of the Martyr's 
clothing. When they went to bed, they took the relic off; 
but the child began again, " See where they come ! " " So 
we jumped out of bed," said the mother, " and ran to him 
and repeated the remedy. We also made a vow to the 
Martyr in our son's name. Presently he was restored to 
his senses. So I have come here to pay the Martyr what 
I promised him." 

g. Influence of neighbourhood ; the worm ; the cherry -stone 

[493] One cure provoked others in the same neighbour- 
hood. A clerk of Lincoln of wide repute, being cured of 
fever by the Water, preached to the people the glory of St. 
Thomas, and many sick folk came to his house and were 
cured in the same way. A London clerk was even cured 
(also of fever) by merely sleeping " in some place where he 
had heard that the Martyr had slept." 1 Solomon of London, 2 
who was nearly a hundred years old, had been blind for six 
years and now recovered his sight in the morning after he 
had prayed at the tomb : and his cure gathered a great 
number of Londoners, who returned more devoted than ever 
to the Martyr. 

[494] The miracle of the ejection of a worm (478), in an 
instance above mentioned, could not be substantiated by 
the production of the worm. But this objection cannot be 
brought against the cure of Henry, a boy of ten, the only 
son of a knight in Essex, 3 who had suffered, from his second 
year, " as though his intestines were being cut up with 
razors." The Water of Canterbury seemed at first to increase 
this poor child's malady, when suddenly he threw up a 
worm of half a cubit long (" semicubitalem ") : " the boy 

1 ii. 103-4. -' ii. 104. 3 ii. 105. 


presently fell asleep, perspired, and awoke in perfect health. 
The worm was hung up in the church." 

[495] The next pilgrim mentioned is a venerable knight 
of Rokesley. 4 He was healed after four years of weary 
sickness, during the last two years of which he had been 
" face to face with death confessing himself, not once, but 
seven times, a week." Another, 5 Hugh de Beauchamp by 
name, could not find a physician to undertake the cure of 
Nicolas his son suffering from dropsy, so " their prayers were 
directed to the Physician of Canterbury." They measured 
the boy for a candle for St. Thomas. The thread, casually 
breaking, proved to be just of the right length ! " They all 
wondered concerning the thread, but were still more gladdened 
by the boy's recovery. For without any carnal medicine 
he felt his swelling subside, and in a short time presented 
himself to his Physician \i.e. St. Thomas] healed." A third, 
Adam of Hadleigh, 6 was cured of the same disease, without 
invocation, by a spontaneous apparition of the Martyr, who, 
in vanishing, cried " Come, come ! " The patient immedi- 
ately recovered. But he did not know where to " come." 
Some days afterwards, warned by a second vision not to 
delay, he consulted a priest, who told him he must go to 
Canterbury : and to Canterbury accordingly he went and 
told the monks his story. 

[496] A fourth, John, chaplain to the arch-deacon of 
Salop, 7 suffering from a polypus in the nose, which subse- 
quently affected his head and finally his whole body, seems 
to have given Benedict a most graphic account of the effect of 
the Canterbury Water. For five or six days he had remained 
without eating or drinking, unable to move hand or foot or 
any member except the tongue, with which he confessed his 
sins and vowed a pilgrimage to Canterbury, and, in course 

4 ii. 106. Ed. marg. adds "since united with North Cray." 

5 ii. 106. 6 ii. 107, or " Headley " (Lat. " Hethlega "). 
7 ii. 1 08. 


of time, an altar to the Martyr : " Wonderful to relate and 
scarce credible even to believers ! As soon as he swallowed 
the Water, he felt it penetrate into every limb and every joint, 
first going down as cold as ice and then mounting up again 
through his whole body and (as though it were chasing his 
disease) almost freezing his brain. The trouble in his head 
was even greater than usual, and he was in such agony that 
he thought that the medicine of life was going to end in his 
sudden death. But in the midst of these agonizing tortures, 
he happened to sneeze. Feeling as if something had slipped 
down into his brain, he put his fingers into his mouth and 
pulled out a cherry-stone. Straightway he regained the use 
of all his limbs. Up he got, called for his shoes, put them 
on, and without delay began to walk up and down in the 
courtyard. When he came to us. he was quite restored to 
health, though much weakened by continuous fasting. He 
shewed us the cherry-stone, but could not be persuaded to 
leave it with us." 

i o. Two peaceful deaths 

Few chroniclers of miracles record instances where the 
miraculous power bestows, not life, but the blessing of a 
peaceful death. Two such instances are placed next by 
Benedict. 1 

[497] Robert Fitz-Jocelin, a knight of Springfield in 
Essex, when seriously ill, received the Water of St. Thomas, 
and was exhorted to demand, in faith, the blessing of health. 
But he replied, " Far be it from me to ask for a cure in this 
absolute way. The Lord grant unto me, for the merits of 
His saint and the virtue of this holy draught, the health of 
my soul, or such health as He knoweth to be expedient for 
me." After spending the rest of that day and the earlier 
portion of the night in peace and quiet, he awoke in the 

1 ii. 109-111. 


very early morning with more than usual cheerfulness, and 
asked for the " viaticum." In reply to the expostulations of 
his friends, he said that the blessed Martyr, appearing to 
him splendidly clothed in a beautiful orchard, had said to 
him, " Fear not, neither be sad. With all speed shalt thou 
enter into fellowship with me." So he received the viaticum, 
and commending his soul to God " breathed forth his spirit 
rather like one sleeping than one dying." 

[498] No less pathetic and pious was the end of Roger, 
son of Herbert of Bisley, 2 " a knight, but a knight of God 
rather than of this world." By the advice of his friends, he 
sent to Canterbury for the Water ; and he received it after 
the sacrament, but with these words, "Give me the Water 
of the blessed Martyr, but with this condition, that, by the 
intercession of this glorious friend of God, I may either 
regain my bodily strength in three days, or this day obtain 
the everlasting health of the soul." At once, after drinking 
the mixture, he bade his servants carry him into the outer 
hall. It was Ascension-tide, and the usual procession was 
passing with the clergy chanting. Hearing their voices, he 
ordered himself to be laid on the ground, as a dying man, 
in sackcloth and ashes, and besought the Lord Jesus, who 
had that day ascended bodily to heaven with His ineffable 
procession, to take his soul also that day (for the merits of 
His glorious Martyr and friend) that he might be counted 
worthy to be found in that heavenly procession and in the 
fellowship of the Martyr. Scarcely had he finished the 
words when he breathed forth his spirit, in the presence of 
several of the clergy, knights, and very many of the common 
people. These facts, says Benedict, the monks heard from 
the knight's son, who had himself been delivered from death's 
door by invoking the Martyr. 


1 1. A boy blind from birth 

[499] Benedict's second book concludes a with a few 
miscellaneous miracles (presumably reported about Ascension- 
tide) describing cures of partial blindness, stone, tumour, 
violent rheumatism, decline, etc., performed on patients from 
the home counties. Among these, two 2 concern sailors, or 
pilgrims, who are saved from shipwreck, or brought into 
port after being becalmed. Godiva, of Chelmsford, 3 who 
had been five years blind, " falling before the Martyr's tomb, 
saw the sunlight, and could discern bodies and colours, but 
she did not receive her sight perfectly." 

[500] Last but one in the book (the last place being 
given to a case of contortion of the foot) comes the case of 
a boy from Chalgrave, 4 blind from his birth, fourteen years 
old. When his eyes were touched with the Water, "they 
swelled up incredibly in the following night, and such a 
flood of matter gushed from them that any one who 
mentioned the amount would perhaps seem to be exceeding 
the bounds of truth." Three days afterwards, the swelling 
went down, and when he opened his eyes still red with the 
clotted blood, he shewed by manifest tokens that he could 
see whatever lay before him. But although he could discern 
things with his eyes he could not distinguish by name 
any colours except white. 

[501] The candour with which in these last two cases, 
as in others, Benedict mentions incompleteness in the cure, 
combines with the truth to nature of his facts and dialogues, 
to make it extremely improbable that he is ever deliberately 
deceiving, or that he is frequently (in his own person) ex- 
aggerating. Even where he seems to accept a miracle on 
doubtful evidence, as in the case of dumb Samson (466), he 

1 ii. 117. In the Paris MS. it ends above, just before the pious deaths of 
the two knights. 

2 " II2 -3- 3 ii. 115. * ii. 116. 


tells his readers that " some doubted," and gives them fair 
reasons for doubting. With all reasonable deductions, his 
narratives, so far, afford remarkable instances of the general 
power of human imagination, and noteworthy testimony to 
the intensity of the reverence and affection with which the 
minds of the poor folk in England had already canonized 
the murdered Archbishop before the formal canonization 
had taken place. 

12. Whitsuntide; candle-miracles 

[502] The miraculous relighting of candles is a frequent 
theme in books of the lives of the Saints. Scientifically 
regarded, the phenomenon is often easily explained. " What 
so likely," says a popular writer on miracles, 1 " as the 
draught of an ill -built cell to blow out a candle? and 
if the wick is long and incandescent, another puff of wind 
would relight it. When candles were in common use it was 
a game of fun with children to blow out a candle, and by a 
sudden jerk upwards, or a puff of the breath, to relight it. 
I have done it many a time." 

[503] This is quite a different phenomenon from the 
miracle imputed to St. Severin in which the unlit candles 
of Christians burst into a flame while those of the Pagans 
remained, as they were. In order to receive a natural 
explanation, the story must describe, or at least allow of, a 
wind or draught, which may first puff the candle out and 
then puff it in again, as in the case of St. Dunstan's mother 
and several others recorded by the writer just quoted. 
Such circumstances are distinctly mentioned in the so-called 
miracle next described by Benedict : and it is a noteworthy 
testimony to the want of observation in those days that the 
physical explanation seems not to have so much as suggested 
itself. Had the monks known of it, they might have easily 

1 Dictionary of Miracles, by the Rev. E. C. Brewer, LL.D., 1884, p. 378. 


used it for the production of marvellous relightings (caused 
by bellows placed in secret places) which might have 
effectively imposed on the multitude. But the Bishop 
of Poitiers thinks it worth while to write to the monks of 
Canterbury to relate the relighting of two candles in an 
open air procession meeting him on his return from St. 
Thomas, 2 and William, a priest of York, solemnly describes 
his finding a candle relighted on the altar, followed by the 
restoration of sight to his blind son. 3 It would be against 
nature that impostors should thus describe impostures to 
fellow impostors. Possibly in later times the monks may 
have played tricks in this matter, but there is no suspicion 
of trickery here. 

[504] Benedict begins the narrative with which he opens 
his third book by descanting on the appropriateness of the 
Whitsun season, when the Lord sent down the Spirit with 
tongues of fire. Then, he passes to facts, 4 of which we will 
give two. The daughter of Aylward of Canterbury, after 
two days of convulsions and shrieks in the Cathedral, had 
been freed from the fits to which she was subject. But she 
had nothing to offer to St. Thomas. A motherly woman 
had compassion on her. Taking out of her pocket a great 
lump of wax and a thin thread, she doubled the thread for a 
wick, and folded the wax liberally round it, so as to make 
something between a rush -light and a candle, which she 
then gave the girl to place in the middle of the tomb. 

[505] What follows must be described in the words 
of Benedict, who was probably the monk in charge at the 
time : " Presently from the opposite window a slight draught 
blew in, and amid a number of candles burning all around 
extinguished only this girl's, the wax being too thick and 
the wick too thin. . . . Seeing the wick smoking, the monk 
called a servant, 'You see that girl's candle out? Light 

2 William (i. 438). 3 Ib- 449> 4 H Ilg s> 


it ! ' While he was hurrying to the spot, putting down 
what he held in his hands, the candle was beheld rekindled 
without human aid. The whole of the people were spec- 
tators of this glorious sight, for they had seen the candle 
so effectively put out that it sent up quite a column of 
smoke : and now they saw it so effectively rekindled that it 
produced quite a long stream of flame. And although, as 
I said above, the wick was thin, and the wax unusually 
thick, yet so speedily did the flame consume it that hardly 
any of the wax could be saved [as a relic]." " Now," con- 
tinues Benedict in triumph, " now let those traitors and 
parricides who called the Saint a traitor and destroyed him 
now let them say where they have heard or read of a 
traitor or criminal vindicated and cleared by such a miracle ! " 
He proceeds to enlarge on inferior precedents such as those 
of Nadab and Abihu destroyed by fire, and Saul of Tarsus 
merely encompassed by fire, concluding thus with allusion to 
subsequent repetitions of this miracle : " St. Martin was but 
once thus glorified ; Elijah twice ; Thomas was specially 
privileged with a fourfold repetition of it." 

[506] On the next day, Goditha, daughter of Baldwin 
of Wye, 5 after lighting two candles, fell down and overturned 
one of them herself, and then, when the poor weak girl rose 
trembling all over to relight it, she struck down the other. 
Seeing both her offerings thus as it were rejected by the 
Martyr, she waved the extinguished candles in her hands 
despairingly calling to the people " Woe is me ! Both my 
candles are put out." Not one had a light to give her ; 
even her own sister, whom she caught sight of at a distance, 
refused to help her afraid, she said, to touch or come 
near her. So the poor girl appealed to heaven : " O sweet 
lady Virgin Mary, O holy lord Thomas, Martyr of Jesus 
Christ, what am I to do ? See, both my candles are 

5 ii. 120. 


out ! " Benedict proceeds graphically to describe the agitation 
of the girl probably accompanied by motion that naturally 
granted her prayer. " While the girl looked this way and 
that way [for help], and with lamentable wailings kept casting 
back her eyes to her [extinguished] candles, both blazed forth 
freshly lighted ! " 

From a sinner she had now become well-nigh a saint. 
" Ye see, my masters," she cried, calling to the vast multi- 
tude that had gathered for the festival, " the blessed Martyr 
Thomas has lit my candles." Benedict concludes thus, " It 
would be difficult to relate the universal exultation, the 
floods of tears, the abundance of thanksgivings. With bent 
knees and uplifted hands, they all gave glory to God, and 
after manifold utterances of thanks, they dispersed through 
the whole city of Canterbury to impart their joy to the rest. 
From that flame all the lights of the church were kindled. 
The [girl's] candles were in part preserved [by us], in part 
given away [as relics] to those who begged for them. 
Blessed be the Lord throughout all things, whose fire is in 
the Sion of Canterbury, and whose hearth is in the heavenly 
Jerusalem ! " 

13. The moral effect of the miracles 

[507] There follow other cures of the usual kind, at 
which Benedict himself was present. Gunnildaof Elvaston (?), x 
after two years and a half of weakness, found herself 
unable to put her feet to the ground, and spent six months 
" in a kind of continuous death." Being brought by her 
servants to the place where the Martyr fell, she suddenly 
stood on her feet. They flew to support her, but she said, 
" Depart. Leave me to myself. I will try to walk on foot 
to my lord's sepulchre." Thither she came, though with 
slow and feeble steps. "She produced witnesses of her 

1 ii. 122. Text, Elfiestun, other MSS. Elfsiestun or Elfiesimine. 


disease to us there sitting, and said her prayer, and returned 
to her lodging (which was at a considerable distance) with 
firmer steps. So she completely recovered, and went her 

[508] The cure of the paralytic Aylmer 2 is especially 
interesting because we are incidentally informed that he had 
been brought " for several days to the Saint." It was only 
by degrees that he recovered the power of moving and using 
his limbs. Even then, at first he used crutches : " Soon, 
however, being made quite strong, he left them [as offer- 
ings] to him that had made him strong." Such a case as 
this must have encouraged many of the sick folk of Canter- 
bury (of which Aylmer was a native) to persevere in attend- 
ance at the Cathedral. This must have largely added to 
the daily concourse. Perhaps, too, in the eyes of strangers, 
it may have indicated a larger average of pilgrims than 
really existed. Eilwin and Walter, 3 both of Berkhampstead, 
are next brought to our notice. The former had used 
crutches for sixteen years ; the latter, with darkened eye- 
sight (oculis caligantibus), and suffering from tumour, had 
lived for ten years in a kind of death. Both of them were 
in sore need as they could not work : both " simultaneously 
came to the tomb, simultaneously fell on the ground, 
simultaneously arose, were simultaneously cured, and simul- 
taneously departed in great joy, leaving all of us who were 
present, and who are now witnesses of the fact (nos qui 
aderamus et rei hujus testes existimus) rejoicing with them, 
nay, weeping with them for joy. I afterwards saw both of 
them, not, as before, in rags, but men of great respectability 
(validae virtutis) and well clothed." 

[509] After recording the cure of a little girl 4 whose 
father had first " confessed and given satisfaction, lest by 
his own sins he should hinder his daughter's recovery," 

2 ii. 123. 3 ii. 124-5. 4 " I2 5'6- 


Benedict digresses to remark that this was but one of 
several instances showing the moral benefit exercised by 
these miracles ; and he solemnly declares that many who 
had spent years in sin without confession, now repented 
and confessed because they did not dare to approach the 
Martyr's tomb with an impure conscience. 5 

[510] A great triumph was gained at this time in the 
case of William de Broc brother of Robert de Broc, an 
attendant of the King and former enemy of St. Thomas. 
After four years of suffering from fever and intestinal 
disease, attracted by the certain accounts of the Martyr's 
miracles, he hastened to Canterbury. There, after thrice 
drinking of the Water, and twice vomiting freely, he obtained 
a complete restoration, and " promised that he would not 
deny it to any of the [Saint's] maligners. 6 " 

14. Dream? self-deception? or lie? 

[511] Next 1 comes a narrative which Benedict says he 
ought to have placed earlier as it happened on the Sunday 
before Ascension day well illustrating the powerful imagin- 
ations (or were they sometimes romancings ?) of the simple 
people in those days. Early in that morning a boy started 
from Salisbury for Marlborough to carry tidings of the death 
of his mother. Issuing from the city, he met an old woman, 
to whom he gave the half of one of his two loaves. Then, 
on Salisbury plain, he encountered three tall men clothed 
like hermits. Of these the midmost and tallest carried a 

6 At this point (ii. 127) he records two cases in which blind men recovered 
the sight of one eye only. In these (one from London, the other from " the 
Marshes," i.e. prob. Romney) no witnesses are mentioned : yet in describing the 
cure of the next patient, a lame girl Avice, daughter of Ordgar of Goshall (in 
Ash, next Sandwich ) he says, " On our requiring witnesses to the genuineness of 
her infirmity we found two trustworthy ones, and, as seeing is more trustworthy 
than hearing, she was told to walk about in a courtyard. Then she left no doubt 
in our minds." He seems to have suspected at first that (in hysterical excitement) 
she said she was cured when she was not. 

ii. 128. i ii. 129-30. 


bowl of blood, and asked him for "the other half of that 
which thou didst give to the old woman to-day. " He also 
reminded the youth of a dream that he had had the night 
before, and bade him go back to Salisbury to tell the dean 
and canons to make a procession round the city : else, a 
great storm would fall on it. After the boy had turned 
and gone a furlong, he looked round : but, " though even a 
dwarf, miles away, could not escape notice on that expanse, 
no one was to be seen." Did the boy dream this, or feign 
it in order to shirk his long journey ? In any case, " he 
returned and told his story to the Salisbury Chapter, and 
they believed him." This miracle seems to Benedict to have 
pre-signified the circulation of the blood and water of St. 
Thomas, which, at that time, had not yet been carried to 
distant regions. 

[512] This leads the chronicler to relate, in a somewhat 
lighter strain, stories about the monks themselves, in relation 
to the Water ; how it persisted in boiling or bubbling when 
in certain hands, and how one who wished to appropriate 
a vessel of it was disappointed by a miracle which " was no 
less generally laughable and amusing than it was wonderful." 2 
" I shall be tedious to my readers," he says, " if I give a 
chapter to each breakage of a pyx." So he proceeds to say 
that the cases were so numerous that something had to be 
done : " At last it came into the mind of a young man to 
make phials of lead and tin by casting, and then the miracle 
of breaking ceased." Still, however, it occasionally happened 
that phials were found unexpectedly empty (or, more rarely, 
unexpectedly full). 

15. Benedict is scolded for scepticism 

[513] In the great multitude of pilgrims that now daily 
resorted to St. Thomas, many, of course, went away uncured ; 

- H. 134. 


but it is only fair to accept also Benedict's statement on the 
other side, that many went away cured but not recorded : 
" We believe," he says, 1 " that the cases we have described 
above are slight and few in comparison with those that have 
not come to our knowledge. For the number of simple and 
obscure persons (idiotarum) who received the blessing of 
health and departed unknown to us, is known to God alone." 
A carriage-driver of Canterbury humorously complained that 
St. Thomas took heavy tolls from him ; for, said he, " I 
bring him a whole carriage-load of sick folk and carry back 
two ! " And here Benedict describes the diversities of cure 
in respect of time : how some received it at the time of 
their vow ; others on the way to Canterbury, but a long 
way off; others on coming into the city; others in the 
Cathedral or at the tomb. Some were healed in the 
moment of departure ; some, not till they had returned to 
their homes. 

[514] A cure performed at a distance required attesta- 
tion. Not seeing the need of this, Beatrice of Woodstock 
made grievous complaints against Benedict himself for his 
incredulity. He was in charge of the tomb when she arrived, 
cured of blindness on the way to Canterbury. One of her 
eyes had not seen for seven years, another for four; the sight 
of one was restored entirely before she arrived, and that 
of the other after a night spent in the Cathedral. She was 
of a mean appearance, says Benedict, both in person and 
garments, and had no witness except that of the girl who 
accompanied her. " I confess," he adds, " my incredulity, if 
incredulity is a fair name for hesitation felt not on my own 
account but for others." She would not endure his cross- 
examination, and at last, he says, " gave me bad words, 
calling me hardhearted, wicked, and unbelieving, unfit and 
unworthy to attend at the tomb of such a martyr, inasmuch 


as I envied his glory and detracted from his miracles in my 
excessive anxiety to track out the truth." 2 

[515] Godwin, of Brithwell 3 in Yorkshire, after spending 
some days at Canterbury, was going back as lame as ever, 
when he received a vision bidding him return to the tomb 
and pray more earnestly. He was not disposed to obey ; 
but was persuaded to do so by two knights of his own 
county whom he met next day. In their company, he had 
no sooner placed his head near the Martyr's feet than he 
recovered, to the astonishment and delight of the knights. 

1 6. Welsh miracles 

[516] No date has been specified later than the candle- 
miracles at Whitsuntide. But Benedict at this point reports 
that miracles had been wrought on the borders of Wales by 
certain relics of the Martyr which the monks had given to a 
nobleman of Cheshire, William Fitzralph by name, to deposit 
in Whitchurch with the special view of keeping the Welsh in 
order. In the course of a few days, toward the end of June, 
they had effected no less than twenty-two cures. 1 

[517] It was perhaps to be expected that, by this time, 
animals would be included in the miraculous efficacy : and, 
just before the Welsh miracles, comes a story about one. 
Emeline 2 (domicile unmentioned), beside being herself cured, 
bore witness also to the cure of her horse. It had been so 
severely wounded in the eye that every one who saw it 
thought the sight was gone for ever : but she had the eye 
imitated in wax, signed it [with the cross] in the Martyr's 
name, and, next day, contrary to the general expectation, 
found it perfectly cured. But Benedict is careful not to 
commit himself to this miracle. "She informed us (indicavit)," 
he says, and he remarks that " she had promised to lead a 

2 ii. 140. 3 ii. 141, Breithwella (? Bridewell). 

1 ii. 145. - ii. 144. 


more respectable life for the future (studiosiorem honestatis 
se futuram esse)," which perhaps may imply that she had 
not formed habits of exact veracity. 

[518] The relics and early miracles in Wales naturally 
produce further results. Some of these exhibit interesting 
touches of the native sentiment and imagination. One 
Griffin, 3 suffering from a swollen and ulcerated leg, after 
three days of prayer and vigil at Whitchurch, returned with 
his lameness lessened but not removed. In a vision, he sees 
a beautiful bird, whiter than snow, and shoots at it. The 
bird flies off to a distance, and he takes a second shot. 
" Why, Griffin, dost thou shoot at me ? " cries the bird. 
" Take this lance, and keep it carefully." Unable to interpret 
the mystery, he is told by a person of reverend countenance, 
who appears to him in a second apparition, that the snow- 
white bird is the Martyr of the English, that the first shot 
is the visit to Whitchurch ; the second and longer one means 
a pilgrimage to Canterbury : the lance means perfect health. 
Straightway he set out on foot, though he knew he could 
not in his present condition walk a mile a day. Yet he 
walked five miles, the first day ; twenty, the next ; then, forty 
miles, or more, daily. " Afterwards," says Benedict, " when 
he came to Canterbury, we found him so improved that the 
wound was skinned over and there was scarcely a vestige of 
his ailment." 

[519] One Welsh boy, so the monks were informed, had 
been dumb from his birth, and he left Canterbury dumb ; but 
by the time he had passed Rochester, " his tongue was 
loosed and he began to speak in Welsh and in English too," 
but more fluently in the former, as being more accustomed 
to hear it. This the monks heard, not from the Welsh 
people, but from the Abbot of Welsford, 4 who met them on 

3 " I45-7- 

4 ii. 147. The Editor adds " or Sulby, Northamptonshire." The text is 
" Wellesfordensis," one MS. " Veldefordensis. " 


the road, shouting for joy and leaping so that tongue could 
scarce describe it. Their delight was increased by the fact 
that one of their companions had similarly received her sight 
while on her journey back. They could not afford the 
expense of returning to Canterbury ; so they asked the 
Abbot to report how they had prospered on their way. 

[520] Along with these startling miracles, the Abbot 
described one of his own experience. A vessel in his bosom, 
containing the Water, slipped into a horizontal position, and 
was found by him, with the stopper out, yet with not a drop 
lost. On this Benedict comments : " We confess that it is 
in our judgment incontestable 5 that He who caused vessels 
to be broken by the power of the holy Water in the case of 
the unworthy, or caused the Water to disappear suddenly in 
the vessels, was able invisibly to close the open mouth of 
this vessel for this man of God, that he might not lose the 

17. St. Thomas or St. Ithamar? An enemy convinced 

[521] A nice point is raised by the next miracle, the 
cure of a blind man from Gloucester. 1 Returning from 
Canterbury without a cure^ he had entered Rochester Cathe- 
dral, on his way back. There, suddenly, he burst out into 
horrible cries and shrieks, and called for a priest to confess 
him. Being taken by the monks to the shrine of St. Ithamar, 
he there offered up prayers and received his sight. The 
Rochester monks naturally claimed this miracle, and Bene- 
dict replies, " Although we believe it was caused by the power 
of our Water, yet we do not contradict those servants of God, 
when they ascribe it to St. Ithamar : though we positively 
know that in the middle of the highway a similar miracle 
occurred, which no one by fraud or force could wrest from 
our glorious Martyr." 

5 ii. 148 " inconcussa veritate nobis constare. " 1 ii. 148. 

VOL. I 19 


[522] He proceeds to describe how one Gilbert Foliot 2 
kinsman and namesake and steward of one of Becket's 
former enemies, Gilbert Foliot, Bishop of London meeting 
a blind man returning from Canterbury with his eyes band- 
aged, asked him what he had gained from his pilgrimage. 
The poor fellow replied that he had brought back nothing 
but loss. Blind he had been from his birth, and blind he 
was still. Moreover, whereas his eyes had not pained him 
before, now they were swollen, and running with matter, and 
torturing him beyond expression. Moved by curiosity, Foliot 
raised the bandage, upon which the blind man called out, as 
though in the height of his pain, " Holy Mary, our Lady ! 
Holy Mary, our Lady ! " The steward anxiously asked 
whether he had hurt him ; but he answered, " Not at all, sir ; 
I am not hurt at all. But I can see. And, Lord God, how 
beautiful a thing is man (forma humana) ! This is the first 
day in which I have seen the beauty of a human face (vultus 
humani decor)." Amid the general joy and congratulations, 
the kinsman of the Martyr's enemy remained alone doubtful. 
Cross-examining the man, he found that he could distinguish 
forms and colours, though he could not give them their right 
names ; and he was compelled to be satisfied that the case 
was genuine. 

It was not to be expected that the steward of the Saint's 
notorious enemy would testify publicly in the year 1171 to 
a miracle of St. Thomas : but his private attestations were 
conveyed to Benedict by a veracious and religious hearer for 
the purpose of being set down in writing : " No one," says 
Benedict in conclusion, " ought to doubt about the glory of a 
martyr, when even a rival is compelled to proclaim it." 3 

2 ii. 149-50. 

3 Later on, William (i. 251) tells us that the Bishop of London himself, seem- 
ing at the point of death, allowed himself to be pledged to a pilgrimage to St. 
Thomas, and redeemed the pledge on being healed. The fact that Benedict lays 
so much stress on the mere testimony of the Bishop's steward, and makes no 


[523] To this, Benedict attaches another cure of blind- 
ness, 4 attested by the Prior of Folkestone who had met 
a Cornishman near Winchester returning from Canterbury, 
where he had received his sight after a stay of two weeks 
there. Possibly, by this time, some pretended to be pilgrims, 
and even to have been delivered from diseases, in order to 
extract alms from wayfarers : but the Abbot satisfied him- 
self by cross-examination that the man had seen the neigh- 
bourhood, and Benedict accepts this as one of many instances 
recalling the old words " Were there not ten cleansed ? But 
where are the nine ? " 

1 8. Offerings of money 

[524] Here for the first time, I believe, occurs the mention 
of an offering of money for the recovery of the sick. 

The daughter of Wivelina of Littlebourne ties a denaritis 
to the head of her dying mother to be offered to St. Thomas 
in case of a recovery. 1 The daughter of Radulph the Flem- 
ing 2 has a quadrans tied to her broken leg, with the vow of 
an annual payment of the same sum in case the treatment 
should prosper. It is recorded with manifest satisfaction 
that " the silver plaster " answered, and that the cure was 
inexpensive : " the girl was brought by her parents to 
Canterbury, and she paid to her Physician for her cure the 
medicine with which she had been healed. Thus one and 

allusion to the more important event, indicates that his work was published before 
the Bishop's conversion. 

It should be noted that Benedict did not witness this miracle, and only 
ascertained indirectly the words uttered by the blind man, which may have been 
inaccurately reported. As the story says, the man could not call things by their 
right names. Then, how could he call by their right names " the human form " 
and " the human countenance " ? Did he call them right by a guess ? or did he 
use the terms perhaps wrongly, looking at something else ? 

One would have anticipated that his immediate condition would have been 
one of complete bewilderment, and that until he had touched it, he could have 
called nothing "by its right name." 

4 ii. 150. 1 ii. 151. 2 ii. 157. 


the same quadrans served both for medicine and for ob- 
lation." These small and innocent beginnings introduce 
into St. Thomas' miracles a new element, which becomes 
much more prominent later on. 

[525] Perhaps, too, we may already perceive that the 
increasing vogue or fashionableness of the Martyr was be- 
ginning to deteriorate some of the wonders connected with 
his name. We have seen above that Emeline's horse's eye 
was supposed to have been cured by the Martyr after the 
offering of an eye moulded in wax : now a Fleming 3 (the 
Radulph above-mentioned), after vainly attempting for eight 
days to catch a hawk, vows a denarius to the Martyr if he 
will bring it to him : " At once," says the chronicler, " it came 
to him as though it had been tamed to his hand : and we 
have seen the hawk and we have received the offered 

[526] At another time, 4 a rascally servant of the monks, 
who had been constantly pestering them for a denarius, was 
found devoutly offering that very coin at the tomb. Know- 
ing the fellow's avaricious nature, they cross-examined him 
as to his motives, and elicited that he had had an attack 
of fever followed by an apparition of St. Thomas, who said to 
him, " Arise quickly and offer a denarius on my tomb lest the 
fever catch you again." Thus, says Benedict, the Martyr 
simultaneously cured both fever and avarice. 

19. The stories of Edric 

[527] Edric, priest of Ramsholt in Suffolk, 1 would 
appear by his name to be " English by birth," and as he had 
a baby daughter not up to the mark of Roman ecclesiastical 
rule : but the Martyr took pity on his little daughter after he 
had tried charms and medicines in vain. At four o'clock 
they measured the little one's head for a candle in the 

3 " 157- 4 " 156. ii. 153. 


Martyr's honour, and by the time the sun had gone down the 
child's sore had begun to heal. In three days she had not a 
spot on her. 

[528] The same Edric tells of the sorrows and consola- 
tions of two little Ramsholt children. The elder, a girl, 
had mislaid a cheese presented to her mother and entrusted 
to her keeping. Searching high and low and not finding it, 
and sadly fearing a whipping, she proposed to her brother to 
go and get another of the same sort from the man who had 
given the first. But it was a long way off, and he demurred 
probably not exactly in the following words, but we must 
tell the tale as it is told to us : " By no means will we do 
this. By God's help we shall do much better. I have 
heard, and it is now noised abroad everywhere, that St. 
Thomas, the Martyr of God, manifests himself in innumer- 
able miracles. Verily, if we flee to him for succour with all 
devotion, we shall not have to regret the rejection of our 
prayer. Let us therefore beseech his clemency that he may 
cause us to dream where the cheese is." They agreed. 
After saying the Lord's prayer, they went to bed, and both 
had a dream. The girl was directed by the Martyr to an old 
disused churn where she had put the cheese and forgotten it. 
Running to her brother, she said, " Hugh, I have found the 
cheese." " I know," replied he, " where you have found it" 
They compared dreams and found them to be the same. 
They told their mother. Their mother told Edric the priest. 
The priest "examined the brother and sister separately and 
heard from each precisely the same story without the slight- 
est discrepancy, and coming to Canterbury he amused almost 
every one who heard him relate it." 2 

[529] Other miracles follow, not certified by Benedict 
himself : the setting of the dislocated arm of Edric 3 of 
Worcestershire, which leapt back of itself into its place, 

2 ii. 153-5. 3 ii. 158. 


when a vow was made to St. Thomas, after the surgeon 
had vainly attempted to set it for five weeks ; the healing 
of Constance daughter of Robert Fitzgilbert, a nun of 
Stixwold, by the Saint's glove, and of her sister-in-law 
Matilda. The latter recovered from tumour (by drinking 
the Water) " so rapidly that she could put on her tightest 
dress, and wonderfully recovered her figure in less time 
than it would have taken her to gallop a mile on horse- 
back. " 4 Then come three miracles attested by the Abbot 
of Jorvaux, who tells how he restored a monk of Byland, 5 
after he had received extreme unction, by causing him to 
drink of water in which he had dipped a portion of the 
Saint's hair-shirt. 

20. The testimony of Henry of Houghton 

[530] The next witness is Henry of Houghton, one 
of Becket's former clerks. Near St. Alban's, he met a 
Berkshire knight returning from Canterbury, who expressed 
thanks for his own restoration to vigorous health, but still 
more for the partial cure of a blind servant, who accom- 
panied him with a bandage round his eyes. The youth 
had a protuberance on one of his eyeballs as large as an 
acorn, caused by sleeping in the open air while looking 
after his sheep. For two years he had not closed his 
eyelids. Having failed at Canterbury, he had returned to 
Rochester, and was sleeping there, 1 when he saw the Martyr, 
in a vision, touching his eye and signing it with the sign of 
the cross. On awaking, he found a stream of matter 
issuing from the tumour. Such was the knight's story 
about his servant. 

4 ii. 158-9 "equo transvolare potuisset." 

5 ii. 1 60 "Locum ab accolis Belelande appellatum, quod Latine speciosum 
saltum resonare videtur." 

1 ii. 161-2. Possibly he stopped at Rochester to try the efficacy of St. 
Ithamar, see above, 521. 


Henry dismounted, took off the bandage, and finding 
the eyelids now closed, separated them, and having cleared 
away (sullevasset) the empty tumour with a thorn, found 
the eye-ball quite intact and healthy. The boy cried out 
that he could see capitally. The other two cried out in 
thanksgiving. " These things," says Benedict, " though our 
eyes have not beheld, yet being certified by the eyes and 
tongue of the above mentioned Henry, which are as good 
as our own, we do not hesitate to insert." 

[531] For several pages Benedict has mentioned no 
dates, and given us no means of inferring the times of the 
miracles recently recounted. Probably they almost all 
belong to the first year, 1171: but, in his desire to break 
the monotony of cure after cure wrought at the Martyr's 
tomb, he may have inserted some cases that occurred later 
and at a distance. A little above, 2 he tells us that one 
Curbaran, a shoemaker of Dover " who was absolutely and 
incredibly simple enough to repeat the Lord's prayer daily 
for the soul of the holy Martyr, not knowing that he who 
prays for a martyr wrongs the martyr " was visited in a 
dream by St. Thomas, who told him that it was but fair 
that his service should be rewarded, and directed him to 
a place under a mill where he was to take what he would 
find. He found " a very thick and rusty denarius? which 
some one, " a good deal sharper than he was," tried with 
his teeth and found to be gold. It turned out to be a 
coin of the Emperor Diocletian, worth forty pieces of 

[532] Now, towards the end of his book, Benedict 
introduces a dialogue between the above mentioned Henry 
of Houghton and a nobleman, probably Richard de Luci, 
formerly one of Becket's enemies. At a meeting of some 
English lords (regni optimatibus), when the conversation 

2 ii. 156. 


fell on the miracles, De Luci declared that the reports of 
them surpassed belief, and that he should decline to believe 
all of them, 3 had he not received ocular proof of one. In 
a certain manor of his 4 there was a priest, whose right 
arm he knew to have been for some years paralysed, so 
that he could not celebrate the sacrament, or raise his 
hand to his mouth : " Now he has come back from 
Canterbury : and besides doing the office of a priest at the 
altar with perfect ease, he hurls the stone with my squires 
and serving -men, and beats them all." Then, turning to 
Henry, he said, " What sort of justice or reason is there, 
Henry, in this paradox ? That the very man who was 
harder on the Church than any of us when he was 
Chancellor, should now surpass any single saint that the 
Church reads or sings of, in the number and wonder of 
his miracles ! " 

Henry, instead of appealing at once to Becket's sanctity 
of life, prudently argued that, if St. Peter was not prevented 
from becoming a saint by his denial, neither ought St. 
Thomas to be prevented by the alleged severity, which, if 
true, had been expiated by seven years of banishment and 
hardship. This satisfied De Luci, who thanked Henry for 
delivering him from a scruple which, said he, " I would not 
have had take root in my soul for forty pounds." Probably 
this nobleman would have felt no " scruple," after King 
Henry had done penance at Canterbury (1174) and 
perhaps not after the King had purged himself before the 
Papal legates (1172). It is therefore quite possible that 
this dialogue may have taken place about the end of 1171. 

3 ii. 163 "Ab omnium eorum credulitate mens mea relapsa deficeret." 
This probably means " I should reject them all." But it might mean " I should 
fail to accept them all [though accepting some]." 

* " Apud quoddam praesidium meum " : Ed. suggests " praedium. " It 
must have contained several "armigeri." 


21. Miracles at Newington 

[533] Benedict tells us that he inserts this dialogue of 
Henry's in order to show how graciously St. Thomas led 
his old enemies to repent of their injuries towards him lest 
they should add sin to sin. He goes on * to narrate other 
miracles worked in a manor of the above-named nobleman, 
" which is called in English Niwentona (i.e. Newington) but 
in Latin Nova Villa." In the midst of the town a cross 
had been set up, no one knew by whom, " dating from the 
first days of the miracles." It was the place where the 
Archbishop had confirmed a number of children, a few 
days before his death, on a journey from Canterbury to 
London. Most bishops were in the habit of confirming 
from horse-back, but he, " out of reverence for the sacrament, 
was wont to dismount and place his hands on the children, 
while standing." Hence, says Benedict, was fulfilled at 
Newington the saying " There shall come unto thee they 
that reviled thee and they shall worship the prints of thy 
feet (Ps. cxxxii. 7, Vulgate)." 

[534] From Newington, then, come almost all the rest 
of the miracles recounted in this section of Benedict's work, 
about fourteen in number. In some of these cases the 
pilgrim came on to Canterbury, but not in all ; so that 
they are briefly described and not attested, except in 
general terms implying that the facts had been examined 
into. Six of these are cases of blindness : one, of a 
child three years old, born blind, who is briefly said 2 
to have received its sight " in the presence of many 
witnesses." Goditha, of Hayes (?), 3 was cured partly at 
Newington, partly at Canterbury. The case of Walter 
Torel of Warwickshire 4 is peculiarly pathetic, besides 

1 ii. 164 sq. 2 ii. 166. 

3 ii. 166, text, "Heisa" ; other MSS., " Hesa" or "Heysa." 

4 ii. 167-8. 


throwing light on the general fashionableness, so to speak, 
of miracles, and reminding us that English people were 
all this time being cured at other shrines than that of St. 
Thomas. It seems that in the previous year, Walter, 
returning from church on St. Cecilia's day and finding his 
daughter sewing, had called down a curse on her profanity. 
Straightway her right side withered up and her tongue was 
paralysed. Horrified at his own act, the father took the 
half-dead girl on his shoulders and carried her about to 
different shrines to seek a cure ; which she received, so far 
as the tongue was concerned, at a church of St. Edith ; 
and the rest at Newington, whither he had turned aside on 
his way to the Martyr. The grateful pilgrim continued 
his journey to Canterbury, and, when he left it, " rejoiced 
to have his burden exchanged for a companion." Benedict 
contrasts this case, where the pilgrim was cured at 
Newington, on the way to Canterbury, with the next, 5 in 
which a man was cured at the same place, but on his 
way back from Canterbury. Again, Robert of Essex, 6 on 
his way to the Martyr to be recovered from blindness of 
ten years' standing, had passed Rochester when another 
blind man on horseback rode on him and hurt his ankle. 
While the two pilgrims were exchanging sympathies, Robert, 
passionately prostrating himself and appealing to the Lord 
in the name of the Martyr, saw a stone on the road. He 
caught it up, kissed it in ecstasy, and then, scorning his 
wife's guidance henceforth, flew on before his companions, 
running incessantly the whole of the seven miles to New- 
ington : " afterwards, with indescribable joy, he proceeded 
to Canterbury." 

[535] In the same place was cured a remarkable 
contortion in a child three years old (son of Roger of 
Northampton) whose right foot had been fixed to his left, 

5 ii. 168-9. 6 ii- 169. 


cross-like, from the day of his birth. 7 But Benedict begins 
to feel that his readers will be wearied by the monotony of 
these cures of monstrous deformities, or disgusted by their 
revolting details. " What avails prolixity ? " he asks, " it 
does but create and increase disgust." So he gives us no 
description of the manner of healing beyond this : " The 
boy whom she had set down in the holy place in this 
pitiable condition she took up with his feet divided and his 
body straight (separatis ab invicem pedibus suscepit erectum)." 
Most pathetic in the whole group of the Newington stories 
is the last, which tells how the two daughters of Godebold 
of Boxley, 8 lame from birth, were brought to Newington 
Cross, and how the elder, after receiving a promise of cure 
from St. Thomas in a dream, felt her muscles stretch and 
strengthen amid the exultation of the clerks and common 
folk, and the bells were set ringing, and she was led into 
the Cathedral in triumph, leaving her younger sister still 
expectant under the holy cross. 

The desolate girl began to accuse the Saint because he 
had taken her sister and left her, crying, like Esau, " Hast 
thou but one blessing, O my Father ? I beseech thee, bless 
me also." On the morrow, says Benedict, " the pious Father, 
moved by her tears and lamentations, visited her as she 
slept and restored her to health, like her sister, thereby 
repeating his miracle and doubling the people's joy and the 
praises that went up to God. In the same place, others 
innumerable were seen freed from divers sicknesses. But 
inasmuch as these have not produced witnesses, and the 
truth has not been perfectly sifted by us (nee ad purum 
veritas a nobis eliquata), we let their stories pass out of our 

7 I am not sure that I understand the italicized words in (ii. 170) "ossa 
tibiarum vel nulla fuerunt vel nimis exilia ; mater enim eas, ut inde certificaretur, 
saepenumero durius attrectavit." If the subjunctive is a mistake for the indica- 
tive, they appear to imply that a certificate of this miracle (and possibly of the 
rest) was sent from the priest of Newington to Canterbury. 

8 ii. 170. 


ears as fast as we let them come in. For we had no wish 
to mingle grain and chaff, truth and falsehood." 

22. The thirteen "candles" 

[536] Yet Benedict cannot forbear telling us of one 
more place where the Saint's feet had stood a place cele- 
brated by the appearance of " an immense light," before the 
erection of the cross there. The story is attested by four 
witnesses, two of whom he mentions by name, Henry of 
Topindenne, 1 and Samuel the clerk. The other two were 
equally truthful and honourable. It wanted still some time 
to sunset, 2 when they were riding not far from the place in 
question, and they all saw at one and the same time (una 
et eadem hora) thirteen lighted candles. They leapt off 
their horses, and approached -the sight step by step, and side 
by side, in order to examine it near at hand. When they 
had gone about half a stone's-throw nearer to them, 3 the 
" candles " were suddenly withdrawn from their eyes. Filled 
with astonishment, they retraced their steps. Looking back 
again, they again see the lighted " candles " and count them 

It might perhaps have occurred to modern travellers to 
leave two of their number to keep an eye on the " candles," 
while the other two went up again to ascertain whether 
some rock or group of stones, reflecting the western sun, 
might not have produced the effect of "thirteen candles." 
However, these four act differently. " Mounting their horses 
they began to ask one another what it could possibly be, 

1 ii. 171. Editor suggests "Tappington" near Canterbury. Two other 
MSS. have "Tropindenne," and " Trobindenne." 

2 " Supererat adhuc diei pars nonnulla." 

3 "Quumque quasi ad dimidium lapidis jactum cereis appropinquassent. " 
"Ad" seems to mean "usque ad," i.e. "as much as." If so, we do not know 
how far off the "candles" still were. Presumably, the "candles" were off the 
high-road, and this was their reason for dismounting. 



while the sun was setting (occidente sole), to cause so great 
a light to irradiate that place, (contending) against the 
darkness of night. Then the aforesaid Henry, calling to 
mind that the Champion of God had passed by that way, 
turned aside to a cottage that was in view, where he was 
informed by a poor woman that the Saint had stood on the 
very spot in question, while holding a confirmation. This 
explained the matter. The sanctity of the place was also 
afterwards manifested more palpably by the gift of many 
acts of healing and a host of miracles. Hence a memorial 
cross was set up there by the faithful. A third place, too, 
wherein his feet stood, was similarly made venerable by 
prodigies of equal glory : but of these I must not now speak 
singly. Not that I condemn them by silence. I merely 
defer them : for in such a multitude of miracles I feel con- 
siderable hesitation as to what is to be produced first and 
what last : 

' . . . plenty hath made me poor.' " 

[537] With this quotation from Ovid's Metamorphoses 
ends the Third Book of Benedict's treatise on the Miracles 
of St. Thomas. 4 Manifestly we are no longer to expect the 
order of " first " and " last " to be rigidly observed. The 
author will also, as seems probable, begin to pay more 
attention to variety of incident and style. When he recorded 
the first miracle that gladdened the Canterbury monks on 
" the third day " after the Martyrdom, he was too much 
occupied with the parallel between Thomas and Jesus to 
think of style, or to quote Ovid, or any writer except the 
Evangelists. All that is now changed, and a new period 
begins. Possibly, indeed, the new period may have already 
begun, and this very conclusion and some of the pages that 
precede it may be due to William, or to some other assistant. 

ii. 172. 



I. William's attitude to Benedict 

[538] WE have seen above (415) that William was called 
by the monks to aid Benedict in reporting miracles about 
May 1172. But this implies that for some time previously 
there had been dissatisfaction with the reports. Benedict's 
words quoted at the end of the last chapter shew that the 
work was now too much for him. Not improbably, too, 
Benedict's style did not satisfy the brethren of Canterbury. 
It is mostly simple and straightforward, seldom aiming (at 
least in the earlier narratives) at any facetiae, or indulging 
in those classical allusions which might charm the Chapter 
on the occasions when they met to hear the new miracles 
read out of " the great volume " of which Fitzstephen 

[539] William's style is different and was probably 
more to the brethren's taste. Without being uncharitable 
to him, we might naturally suppose that he would feel a 
certain sense of superiority in being publicly called to 
Benedict's aid. There are also signs that he felt towards 
the latter something of jealousy or dislike. We have seen 
that Benedict tried at first to adhere to chronological order. 
But the preface to William's book written, it is true, in the 
name of the whole convent, but hardly likely to be written 


without William's influence, if not by his hand expressly 
depreciates such order as being useless. Compare too 
Grim's and William's accounts of Benedict's relations with 
King Henry. Grim says l that Benedict had been slandered 
to the King, who had hence conceived a dislike for him, 
caused, before Benedict had been made Prior of Canterbury, 
by " some who make it their business to sow discord between 

[540] This points to monkish jealousies and rivalries 
about the election of the new Prior in 1175, when Prior 
Odo, under guise of being promoted, was removed to be 
Abbot of Battle. There was at that time in the Abbey a 
monk, Alan by name, who afterwards, in 1 1 79 was 
almost forced 2 on Archbishop Richard by his brother monks 
on account of his high character. William appears to be 
referring to Alan when he tells us that, on Odo's removal, 
the monks unanimously strove for the appointment of a 
worthy brother " of commendable life," whereas Archbishop 
Richard wished to force on them a nominee of his own. 3 
Now the context tells us that this nominee was not appointed 
in 1175, but it does not tell us that the brother "of com- 
mendable life " was appointed. Benedict, who succeeded, 
seems to have been appointed in 1175 as a compromise, when 
the monks wanted some one else. Not till two years after 
Benedict had been removed by " promotion " to Peterborough 
(in 1177), was Alan, the candidate of the monks, at last 

1 ii. 448-50 : for explanation of references, see \a. 

2 ii. p. xliii., referring to "Gervase 1456." 

3 i. 542. This nominee was (no doubt) Herlwin, Archbishop Richard's 
Chaplain, who became Prior in 1177. The Pope directed Bulls to this Prior by 
name, commanding that the offerings of the church should be disposed of for the 
repair of the church, etc. which does not look well for Herlwin. It is added 
that, extreme age having indisposed him for government, he gave over his place in" 
1179. " Extreme age " does not usually come on in two years. Probably the 
monks gave Herlwin, as he perhaps deserved, a great deal of trouble. For these 
facts about Herlwin (taken from Battely's Somner, pp. 141-142, part i.) I am 
indebted to Dean Farrar. 


successful (i 179). Apparently, then, Benedict was not very 
much liked by the monks, and probably not by William. 
At all events, it could hardly be pleasant for Benedict that 
William should suggest that, at the time of his election to 
be Prior, the monks wanted some one else. 

[541] And now, to return to the evidence above-men- 
tioned, afforded by a comparison of Grim's and William's 
narratives. Grim says that Benedict had been slandered and 
was disliked by the King, who would not give him an 
audience when he came to press for the fulfilment of the 
royal promises to the Abbey. William says that 4 " the 
King put off answering his petition, as being much occupied 
and not accustomed to do important business without cir- 
cumspection," and again, " when the King's prudence put off 
the fulfilment of his promise, and monkish importunity? 
though it was daily insistent, could obtain no result." There 
is here no suggestion from William that the King insulted 
Benedict or treated him badly. He makes the King say 
simply, " I began to fear you (Benedict) might have returned 
home wearied with waiting and travelling up and down, 
following my court." But Grim says that " the King's fury, 
but for his reverence for St. Thomas, would have passed the 
bounds of royal behaviour against Benedict" and that, until 
moved by a vision from the Martyr, he had "publicly assailed 
him with contumelious words, and had allowed his servants 
to do the same." 

[542] Grim's account bears marks of truth, coming 
probably from Benedict himself, whereas William seems to 
write with a courtier-like softening and suppression. Perhaps, 
when Benedict was removed from Canterbury in 1177, 

4 i- 493- 

5 "Monachilis improbitas." Elsewhere, when William uses this ambiguous 
word, he thinks it necessary to explain (at some length) that he does not use it in 
a bad sense (i. 331) : " Tandem vincit improbitas (' labor improbus omnia vincit ') 
non improkitas, sed fides et longanimitas instanter petentis." 


and before Alan succeeded in 1179, there was a period 
when many of the monks felt desirous to dissociate them- 
selves from their former Prior, who had not been a grata 
persona with the King. And even in 1172, before Benedict 
was Prior, there may have been a party against him, besides 
those who thought meanly of his official work. His book of 
miracles, so far, had not (according to their views) done 
justice to the subject. It had made too much of failures, of 
relapses, and imperfect cures. There were too many stories 
about Canterbury folk and poor obscure people, and not 
enough of the marvels wrought at a distance, attested by 
priests and prelates and knights. 

It seems to follow that Benedict, though at first merely 
associated with William, would gradually be superseded by 
the latter. The forthcoming miracles, though still shewing 
occasional signs of Benedict's hand, are no longer arranged 
in order of time, no longer confined to England, and no 
longer so generally truthful, simple, and exact. 

2. The new Prologue 

[543] The Prologue with which the Fourth Book begins 
is either not Benedict's, or it is Benedict's after he has been 
told to mend his style : " Though the Lord should multiply 
with manifold increase the gift of my meagre wit ; though I 
should speak with the tongues of men and angels ; though I 
should have bestowed on me the hands, I will not say of a 
swiftly-writing scribe, but even of a notary taking notes at 
his swiftest pace ; wit would succumb, tongue would fail, 
fingers would be struck numb (obstupescent). If I attempt 
but briefly to touch on the mighty deeds of the Martyrs of 
Canterbury one by one (much less to set them forth fully 
and clearly) I am conscious of the sting conveyed by the 
salutary warning of the heathen poet, which I ought to have 
remembered at the outset 

VOL. I 20 


" ' Sumite materiam vestris qui scribitis aequam 
Viribus, et versate diu quid ferre recusent, 
Quid valeant humeri.' l 

" But now, inasmuch as (contrary to the advice of a 
second wise man) I have sought things too deep for me, like 
one that peers into [divine] majesty, I am oppressed by its 
glory. Glorious indeed and inscrutable altogether are the 
mighty works or merits of our Martyr, and, as they attract 
by their sweetness, so do they oppress by their weight, the 
weakness of my sense. Yet, because I have begun, I will 
speak of my lord, though I am but dust and ashes." '' The 
last sentence or two may be Benedict's. The first paragraph 
is probably not. Perhaps William has already " come to his 

The first miracle 3 is of a very remarkable kind, attested 
by some burgesses of Bedford and referred to elsewhere by 
the bishop of Durham. But the consideration of it is best 
deferred, as it is one of a small group of miracles described 
both by Benedict and by William (710). 

3. Leprosy 

[544] We come, then, to the first cure of leprosy. 
Here Benedict's candour is still apparent. Randulf of 
Langton (de Longa Villa), having shewn all the signs of a 
leper, had made an arrangement to live in a leper house, 
when he heard of the miracles of the Canterbury Martyr 
" in whose merits he trusted as much as he felt ashamed of 
his own." He visited the tomb, and prayed and wept, and 
made vows : a journey to Jerusalem, severe fasts, four 
denarii as an annual offering. He remained nine days at 
Canterbury, and, after using the Water internally and 

1 Horace, Art. Poet. 38-40. 2 ii. 173. 

8 It is noteworthy that, whereas Benedict places it first in his Fourth Book 
which begins what may be called the second (or assisted) part of his treatise 
William places it absolutely first (see 596). 


externally, departed in better condition. " At the end of a 
month," says the reporter, probably Benedict, " we received 
him back, a graceful young man (elegantissimae formae 
juvenem). So from Whitsuntide almost to Advent abiding 
with us in perfect soundness, health, and grace, and without 
a single spot he went away at last, as if for the purpose of 
setting out for Jerusalem ; and on returning home (I know 
not by what judgment of God) he appeared with all the 
signs of leprosy so manifest on him that never was leper 
fouler. The cause of his relapse He knows who said to the 
man whom He had healed, ' Behold thou hast been made 
whole : sin no more, lest a worse thing befall thee ! '" l 

[545] This is a very gloomy specimen to come first in a 
list of miracles ; and it is rather startling to find, immediately 
after the passage last quoted, a second cure introduced with 
the words, " The repetition of this first miracle doubled the 
joy we had conceived from it." Possibly the second, 
occurring soon after Whitsuntide 1171, when the first cure 
took place, was recorded some time before the relapse, which 
took place after Advent in 1171 and which could hardly be 
recorded till Jan. 1172. And it may perhaps have been 
regarded by the monks as one of many instances of 
Benedict's excessive and inexpedient scrupulousness, that he 
not only inserted, but retained, and placed first in his list of 
such cases, a cure of leprosy that soon afterwards turned 
out a failure. 2 

[546] The second case is attested by the Dean of 
Chesterton in Warwickshire. The monks had taken pains 

1 ii. 183. 

2 Contrast William's method. He (i. 213) places first in his list a cure (also 
related by Benedict) authenticated by a bishop ; and, though he mentions one 
case in which the cure was not perfect owing to the shortness of the patient's 
stay at Canterbury, others in which the evidence was incomplete, and others in 
which there was a relapse followed by a second recovery, he gives (I believe) 
no instance (like this of Benedict's) where relapse, so far as the evidence goes, 
was final. 


to ascertain the facts. The venerable Master Edmund, 
Archdeacon of Coventry, had told them of a leper in his 
diocese who had returned from St. Thomas without a spot : 
" but," says the chronicler, " as the Archdeacon himself only 
knew of it by hearsay, and as the ear's witness is less lively 
than the eye's, 3 though we believed his words, we were 
unwilling to record it unless he sent us the leper with a letter 
from his Dean." Yet no details of the cure are forthcoming 
in the Dean's letter, except that the man, after praying and 
drinking the Water, " felt his disease go down from his head 
to his chest, from his chest to his stomach, from his stomach 
to his legs, from his legs to nothing." These sound like the 
man's own words, and perhaps the monks could get no more 
out of him. Possibly William was sitting at the tomb on 
this occasion, and did not make a great effort to elicit facts 
from the man himself. It is not surprising being merely 
the natural effect of popular exaggeration that whereas 
the chronicler comments exultingly on this, the second of a 
long list of lepers healed the leper himself is said to have 
been drawn towards Canterbury by the report that "lepers" 
were already cured there. 

4. Tlie chronicler seeks variety 

[547] To the last case the writer appends a statement 
suggestive rather of William than of Benedict that, 
although no Saint, in the Old Dispensation or the New, has 
equalled St. Thomas in the frequency of his cures of leprosy, 
total or partial, 1 yet he will insert a few other matters here, 
to avoid wearying his readers by monotony. Accordingly, 
he places next in order the cure of Odo of Falaise, the 
King's accountant This nobleman had lost the sight of his 
right eye in tilting; but in the summer of 1171, while at 

3 ii. 183. The quotation from Horace (Art. Poet. 180-1) may indicate that 
here, as in the Prologue, there are traces of William's style. 
1 ii. 185 "emundati vel emendati." 


his devotions, he happened to weep for the death of the 
Martyr, whom he greatly loved. On drying his tears he 
found that he had regained his sight Possibly humility, 
but more probably the fear of the King's anger, caused Odo 
to come in disguise when he brought his offering to St. 
Thomas. The chronicler offers no explanation but merely 
records the fact : " We saw him coming to the Saint's 
Memorial with vows and offerings, but so humbly and 
abjectly that his mien and carriage gave one the impression 
that he was a beggar, and so did his clothes." 2 

[548] The next story is more like a fable than a miracle. 
It refers to a great fire at Rochester in 1 177, in which year 
Benedict was removed to Peterborough. Coming as it does 
after a miracle of 1171, it indicates that this section was 
not put together under the supervision of any one who cared 
for chronological order. A pilgrim (name and domicile 
unmentioned), after many repulses at other doors, being 
received hospitably by the servant of one Gilbert, a baker, 
saves his host's house from fire, when all the rest of 
the city is consumed, by leaping on the roof with a phial of 
the Water. Placing it on the end of a pole, he thereby, as 
with a spear's point, drives back the flames. 3 

[549] The son of Eudes, of Parndon in Essex, when 
dying or dead the writer does not know which was 
restored in consequence of the prayer offered by the father, 
" saluting the Saint although from afar." The parents came 
with thanks to St. Thomas, and, in their company, the writer 
saw one Baldwin testifying that the Water had saved him 
when his life was despaired of. 4 

[550] The variety desired above is heightened by the 

2 ii. 1 86 " ut et gestus mendicum mentiretur et habitus." 

3 It may be accident that the language occasionally falls into hexameters : 

"... quisquam propriis intendere rebus. 
Exsiliunt juvenes praefati cum peregrino. " 

In William's Book " tags " of hexameters are frequent (645). 
* ii. 188. 


marvel told by Lecarda, a nun (domicile not mentioned) 
who, while working a girdle for St. Thomas, refused to take 
shelter from a thunderstorm from which her companions fled : 
" I will not go in, nor move hence," said she. " Am I not 
working for St. Thomas ? If he please, let him defend his 
work and workwoman from injury." And so it was. Her 
back was drenched, but on her front and on the girdle not a 
drop fell. Two of the sisters attested the miracle : " and the 
girdle was sent to us and hung up near the Martyr's body in 
memory of the miracle." 

[551] Then follow two instances of the changing of the 
Canterbury Water into blood the former attested by a 
letter from Albin, Abbot of Derby, the latter by a priest of 
Froyle named Ranulph which suggest questions as to the 
way in which the monks of Canterbury composed their 

Ranulph relates two other miracles. 5 His brother, Everard, 
Chaplain of St. Mary's, Winchester, fell downstairs at South- 
wick, and then, lying senseless for seven days, was reported 
dead at Winchester, so that his prebend was filled up, and 
his books and property divided. As a last resort, Ranulph 
tried the Water. The patient recovered for a moment, 
saying, " Please God, I shall go to Canterbury." But then 
he relapsed, speechless and senseless as before. So Ranulph 
set off to Winchester to try to make some arrangement 
about his brother's belongings. While he was there at 
dinner with the monks, his brother's servant entered, saying, 
" My master, your brother, is close by." Ranulph, supposing 
that he was being brought for burial, replied, " Ought he not 
to have been buried with the clergy at Southwick ? " " Not 
at all," said the man ; " he is coming here." " And how 
' coming ' ? " said the other. " Do you mean brought on a 
bier ? " " Not on a bier," said the servant, " but on horse- 



back, alive and active." " Such were the facts," continues 
the chronicler, " written in a rude style, as stated by the 
above-mentioned and oft-mentioned Ranulph. ... As for the 
patient, or rather the revived, he said he could not remember 
his illness, or anything else, except that, when he came to 
himself, he ordered his horses to be brought round, and, 
mounting, rode about twelve miles to Winchester, where he 
wondered that a crowd of fools should come out to meet 
him." 6 Why was it left for Ranulph who comes as a 
pilgrim, partly on his own account, because St. Thomas had 
healed him also of an acute disease to relate this story in 
his brother's behalf? Why did not Everard come and offer 
his own gratitude ? The chronicler does not tell us. 

5 . Foreign cures : miraculous chastisements 

[552] A large number of the cures that now follow are 
from foreign parts Alelm from St. Omer who had cut his 
thumb at dinner, Mary of Rouen cured of fits or hysterics, 
Durand of Eu freed from a pebble in his ear, and others. 1 
Among these stories comes one narrating how the Water 
compelled a man to make peace with his enemies. Meeting 
two men whom he disliked, he intended to pass them by 
without saluting them. Straightway in the phial, which he 
carried in his bosom, the Water began to flow out as though 
it were boiling over. He changed his mind, and " on the 
instant that his heart was at peace, the Water, to his 
astonishment, was at peace also." 

[553] The miracle wrought on Laetitia must have been 
in early days, before the tomb was walled in ; for she lay on 
the sarcophagus and even slept on it a thing severely 
punished by the Saint in a miracle recorded above by 
Benedict. But she awoke, first with one eye restored to 
sight, and then with the other. This miracle is not attested. 

6 " turbam stupidam sibi occurrere obstupuit. " 1 ii. 197-201. 


As to the parents and place of residence, the writer says " of 
noble father but lowly mother, of a county and manor 2 
whose names I suppress because of their barbarous nature." 
This is not like Benedict's manner. 

[554] There follow some accounts of people struck with 
blindness for pretending to be blind, or for despising the 
blind, in connection with the name of St. Thomas. Geoffrey, 
a knight of Charlton in Gloucestershire, pretended to be 
blind, and obtained the Water by importunity, after the 
monks had declined to give it to him. Whether in conse- 
quence of this trick, or (as the context would rather indicate) 
because of his bad reputation in his neighbourhood, he was 
called "Musard (Malae Artes)." 3 In any case he was 
severely punished. Returning from Canterbury, he had not 
gone seven miles before he became blind. The visitation 
led him to repent He confessed, received the sacrament, 
returned to Canterbury, and there, after three days of penitent 
blindness, regained his sight. 

[555] On the other hand, a rustic of Abingdon was not 
equally fortunate. " Concerning his miraculously inflicted 
and continuous blindness," says the chronicler, "we confess 
that it is a fact ascertained by us ; 4 and inasmuch as many 
have deviated from the truthful account of this miracle, and 
have darkened the clear sky of truth with the mist of 
facetious falsehood, let [my] hearers mark what truth I have 
ascertained in the course of a diligent investigation, that 
they may be able to discern light from darkness." The 
style is hardly Benedict's, and the language points to a 
comparatively late miracle recorded still later, and not until 
it had been widely circulated in some shape discreditable to 
the fame of St. Thomas or injurious to religion. 

2 ii. 205 " praedio." 

3 ii. 205 : comp. " Mauclerc," the name given to Hugh of Horsea, who 
perpetrated the final outrage on the body of the Archbishop. 

4 ii. 206 "nobis constare fatemur." 


[556] This man had in the first place compelled his 
wife and his sick brother to leave Canterbury prematurely, 
and, as it would seem, before the latter was perfectly cured ; 
and then, again in spite of their objection, he had forced 
them to quit an inn at Rochester because some blind folk 
resorted to it : "I am not going to lodge with St. Thomas's 
blind folk," he said : " I have nothing to do with them." 
His punishment is described as coming by degrees, 5 but it 
was speedy enough : " And the Lord covered the eyes of 
the countryman by degrees with the darkness of blindness : 
and on the morrow he was made quite blind. . . . Over and 
over again did he afterwards resort to the Martyr ; but he 
was blinded once for all, and more than once did he bring 
back his lightless luminaries from our luminary 6 (St. 
Thomas) ; for up till this day he has life but not light." 

6. The son of William of Banwell ;^ Matilda from the 
region of Cologne 

[557] The story of William of Banwell and his son is 
still more melancholy. When the son refused to stay any 
longer with his blind father at Canterbury, the old man called 
down vengeance on him in the name of the Martyr. Yet, 
as he could not remain alone among strangers, he consented 
to go. " If you would but wait a little," he said, " you would 
perhaps see me seeing ; 2 but now, contrary to my hope, such 
as I came, such do I return." So the son led the father 
back ; " and as he went into the next city he lost the use of 
his eyes. Yet he went on, lamenting, as far as the seventh 
milestone. There, in the utter darkness of blindness, he sat 
down in the midst of the highroad with his father whom he 
had been leading. . . Those who passed by gave them nearly 

6 ii. 207 "paulatim." 

6 " Sed semel excaecatus, non semel tantum a lumine nostro lumina sine lumine 
reportavit," a play on words, such as is frequent in this section of the treatise. 
1 ii. 207 "De Benewella." 2 "videntem me videres." 


enough to convey them both to Canterbury ; but afterwards 
they departed without our knowledge and left us ignorant 
whether they ever recovered their sight." 

[558] The madness of Matilda of Cologne and her 
tragic history are graphically told. The monks shrank from 
the spectacle of her violent fury : she had nothing on but a 
linen smock and tore that to fragments ; she struck with all 
her might 3 a friend who wished to remove her ; she would 
have strangled a little child, who came in her way, had he 
not been speedily snatched from her by the bystanders. In 
bonds, for four or five hours, she raved on before the 
Memorial, until the Martyr looked on her and drove out the 
evil spirit, though it still left at first foul traces behind. By 
degrees she returned to herself, and in the morning she 
became completely sane. " Her speech," 4 says Benedict, 
" was scarcely intelligible to me. But she said that she had 
seen in her dreams the Martyr clothed in pontifical vestments, 
with the oblique blood - streak across his face, such as I 
described in the Passion, 5 and asking the nature of her 
disease ; whereupon she had informed him of her suffering of 
body and mind." Then the Saint promised her recovery, 
and bade her go on pilgrimage to the threshold of the 
Apostles, or to the Church of St. James : 6 on these terms 
he promised her absolution. 

When she was asked how she had become insane, " she 
said that a young man whom she dearly loved had been 
killed by her brother : then she, in a fit of madness, had 
killed with a blow of the fist her little one, christened only 
the day before. So she departed from the Martyr healed 
and rejoicing, anxious now about nothing but obtaining 
pardon for her sin." 

3 ii. 208 "non fictis viribus." 4 "idiomate." 

These words shew that this narrative proceeds from Benedict himself. 
The lattei means Compostella ; the former, Rome, as containing the tombs 
of St. Peter and St. Paul. 

$560 HIS MIRACLES 315 

7. The Saint's "merry jests" 

[559] " I should like," proceeds the chronicler, " to insert 
among these graver narratives a few stories about the 
Martyr's merry jests (ludis) for recreation's sake ; for even 
his jests are matters of gravity." So he tells us how Sibilla 
came into a court of law to plead for her dower, with only 
an obol in her purse, having just given a denarius away to a 
girl who had been delivered from madness by St. Thomas, 
and who had begged for that sum l in the Martyr's name. 
The monks, by the way, seem to have formed a high opinion 
of Sibilla's' credibility : " she was ready and willing," says the 
writer, " to take oath on the holy sacrament that she had 
but an obol left, though we doubt not that her plain affirma- 
tion deserved credit." The chronicler goes on to say that, 
while she was waiting for the verdict, " she happened to put 
her hand into her purse, and found a denarius like the last 
but in remarkably good condition." 2 She whispered to one 
of the knights by her that the denarius she had given for 
the Martyr's sake had been returned to her. Others of the 
knights overheard it, and a crowd of curious people flocked 
round : so the woman publicly confessed it and shewed the 
denarius, which was beheld with astonishment by all. But 
she would not give it up to anybody. For that silver 
denarius was " more precious to her than gold." 

[560] Similarly 3 it fared with Richard, Chaplain to the 
Sheriff of Devon, who, having vowed to become a pilgrim 
and to give alms on his way to every one that asked in the 
name of St. Thomas, found that his servants had forgotten 
to provide him with the small change that he expressly 
ordered, so that, having not a single quadrans left, he had 

1 ii. 209. It was a considerable sum under the circumstances. This and 
the following stories shew that already the profession of a pilgrim to or from St. 
Thomas, and especially of a pilgrim returning cured, might be very lucrative. 

2 " quantitate praestantem. " 3 ii. 210. 


before him the alternative of breaking his vow or else giving 
every beggar a denarius. However, when the next beggar 
came, he put his hand in his pocket, and there was an obol, 
and so for the second, third, and all the rest, till he came to 
Canterbury : " Yet the venerable man asseverated to us, and 
that on his oath, that he was absolutely certain he had not 
brought a single obol with him." 

[561] The chronicler adds that his faith in these two 
miracles is strengthened by the fact that almost the same 
thing happened to Ralph, Sub-prior of St. Augustine's, 
Canterbury. He had received five solidi for travelling 
expenses to Rochester, out of which he had paid several 
denarii for shoeing the horses, etc., and three obols for the 
poor. Yet on his return, on counting out his denarii, he 
found that they amounted to exactly five solidi and three 
obols, so that he had brought back more than he took away 
by three obols the amount of his alms ! 

8. Miracles for mariners : an imposture works a cure 

[562] There follow a few miracles wrought for mariners, 
two or three of which, being narrated also by William, will 
be found below. 1 In the first of these (not given by William) 
Henry of London is warned by St. Thomas not to return 
from Norway in the vessel in which he sailed thither, as it 
will be wrecked ; and it is added that, if the young man 
takes the Saint's advice, he will have no more fevers. All 
happened as predicted, and Henry came to Canterbury to 
make an offering and give thanks. 2 Another man, dragged 
overboard by a rope letting the anchor down, was saved 
(though his leg was eaten away to the bone) by the breaking 
of the anchor ring consequent on his invocation of St 
Thomas. 3 Ivo of Lynn, 4 on a voyage to Norway, was caught 
in a tempest which dispersed, shattered, or sank almost all 

1 721 sq. 2 ii. 212. s ii. 214. 4 i^ 2l6 


the vessels sailing with him ; but he had on board a priest, 
to whom St. Thomas appeared as he slept, saying, " Awake, 
bid thy companions say twenty Pater Nosters for my father's 
soul, and ye shall not perish." They obeyed, and were 
safely driven back to the port whence they had started. 
This, says the chronicler, he had from Robert of Lincoln, a 
clerk on board : " There are many other matters of the same 
kind : but one .and the same sort of food cannot be continu- 
ally taken without disgust." 

[563] So he passes, for variety's sake, to a quite new 
story brief, but one of the most instructive of all. It tells 
how a young man, suffering from an acute disease and being 
on the point of death, begged in agony for the Martyr's 
Water. The friends at his bedside had none of it at hand : 
" But one of them ran to a spring, and fetched a vessel of 
fresh water, saying, ' Here is the Water of the Saint which 
you desire.' The sick man believed and drank, and under 
this health-giving deception was immediately cured. For at 
once, abandoned by the disease, he left his bed, feeling 
nothing amiss except mere weakness. This same young 
man not only related these facts to us but also brought to 
Canterbury the person who drew the water from the fountain 
and other witnesses." 

The writer seems to think his readers will scarcely credit 
this. Many in our days will find no difficulty in accepting it as 
true, and as explaining a large number of the other miracles. 5 

9. The Water : imperfect cures : Benedicfs miracle 

[564] One or two of the next miracles * indicate that it 
had by this time become a general practice in churches and 
houses of religion to keep " the Water of St. Thomas " for 

5 William relates no such miracle, but has one (i. 384) of opposite tendency 
where a supposititious water produces no effect, and the patient is warned in a 
vision that she has been deceived and that she cannot recover without the genuine 
Water. 1 ii. 217-19. 


purposes of healing. But none of these call for special 
remark. A rather pathetic story about Mabel, daughter of 
Stephen de Aglandre, of Neen in Shropshire, describes in 
painful detail her sufferings from a stony tumour which had 
brought her into a state between death and insanity, and 
how, in answer to a Canterbury pilgrim suggesting prayer 
to St. Thomas, 2 she replied, " He cannot help me. He would 
have helped me if he could. For I have cried to him, oh, 
how many times ! And he has not heard me." Then her 
friend begged her to persevere, and to vow a pilgrimage on 
foot. " She vowed," says the chronicler, " and (as far as I 
remember) she tasted the Water. Immediately, in a moment, 
the tumour broke internally . . . and in that same hour she 
rose from her bed, restored, though weak." One of her 
physicians, hearing of her recovery, said, " Whoever asserts 
it is a liar." However, he went in to see her, and " he was 
astounded with joy, and believed, though astounded." 

[565] After two cures of dropsy the second of which 
is despatched in six lines " lest my readers should be disgusted 
instead of delighted " the narrator passes to a plain state- 
ment of facts characterized by Benedict's usual candour. A 
woman from Wales 3 brought to Canterbury a little boy blind 
from birth and a girl insane. The girl was restored on the 
journey : the boy was " so far improved at Canterbury that 
I can neither call him blind nor blessed with sight, for he 
could follow a lantern hither and thither when placed before 
his eyes, and yet could not see the way he was going. I 
should like to say this for fear of seeming to exaggerate, as 
some have done both about this same boy and also about 
William of Horsepool in Sherwood, a person quite unknown 
to us, who said he came blind and produced no witness or 
supporter of his assertion. I saw him using his eyes, I 

2 ii. 221 "ad ilium preces dirigeret." 

3 ii. 223 "a finibus Gualensium, qui se Britones appellant." The Welsh 
have been mentioned above, ii. 145, without this addition. 


confess, when he departed : but I did not see him blind 
when he came. And when he had remained with us for 
several days to improve his sight, he kept, as it seemed to 
me, still in the same condition." 4 

[566] A cure of insanity (in Walter, a clerk of Hatcliffe, 
near Grimsby) is followed by a story telling how the writer 
himself, being attacked at night by three horribly barking 
dogs, silenced them with the words, " In the name of St. 
Thomas, hold your peace." 5 After adding that this happened 
to him twice in the same night, he says, " As God is my 
witness, I do not tell this for my own glory but for the 
Martyr's. For indeed the monk Roger, deputed like myself 
to be custodian of the sacred body, had something equally 
or still more wonderful befall him." This introduces the 
story of Eda. She was a lady from Scotland who had not 
put her foot to the ground for ten years. Coming to 
Canterbury, after three days spent near the tomb, she begged 
for a draught of the Water. Roger refused unless she would 
come to him for it. " Sir," she replied, " for ten years I 
have not walked a step, and how could I now come to you ? " 
The monk answered, " In the name of the Martyr, I bid you 
rise and come to me." Straightway she arose ; and not 
only came, but went thrice round the tomb. However, she 
could only walk on tiptoe at first. But next day she used 
the soles of her feet, and finally dispensed with her litter and 
returned on horseback to Scotland, where she " made gradual 
progress day by day and obtained the great blessing of a 
complete cure." 6 

I o. Restoration after drowning 

[567] Robert, a boy of Rochester, 1 fell into the Medway 
about three o'clock and was not dragged out till after the 

4 William enters into less detail about cures of blindness. He does not, I 
believe, mention any cases of partial cure, or of blindness from birth. 

6 ii. 224. 6 ii. 225 " sanitatis." x ii. 226. 


bell had rung for vespers. He was senseless, and blue in 
the face, and though he was hung up by his feet, not a drop 
of water came out. They rolled him about in a tub to 
make him vomit, but all was in vain. Night was almost 
coming on, and many said he was dead. The mother, who, 
from the moment when she heard the news, had not ceased 
calling on St. Thomas, now again invoked him, measuring 
the body with a thread and promising the Martyr a silver 
thread of the same length for her son's life. The boy im- 
mediately vomited the water and was restored to health. 
Next day he was with his playfellows as usual. 

[568] The chronicler proceeds to admit that in this 
case life may not have been extinct ; but he invites any one 
who may be disinclined to believe in the miraculous nature 
of this restoration, to consider how it is confirmed by his 
next similar story about a child six months old, who had 
been three hours under water in a bath, Gilbert son of Ralph 
and Wulviva, of Sarre. 2 When the nurse brought word of 
the mishap, the mother in an agony snatched the body out 
of doors crying and shrieking so that all the women of the 
village came out to help. The men were away, fishing or 
at harvest. But one, perhaps old and decrepit, who had 
returned as a pilgrim from Jerusalem, bade her carry the 
babe in : " Why labour in vain ? The breath is long out 
of its body." Then said a widow, "Are not five of us 
widows ? Let us kneel nine times and invoke St. Thomas, 
and repeat the Lord's Prayer nine times in his name." They 
did so, but still " the boy did not arise." 3 Then one said, 
" Run and fetch a thread and measure the babe, and vow a 
candle of the same length." As soon as this was done, 
water and blood issued from the child's mouth, and in a 
very short time he moved his eyelids and burst out crying. 

2 ii. 227. 

:! "Xon surrexit puer," a somewhat monkish expression to use about a baby 
of six months. 


" I myself," says the writer, " went to the village of Sarre, to 
sift 4 the truth more carefully " ; and he regards the facts as 
conclusive. " From nine o'clock to noon he was in the 
bath, so to speak, boiled ; 5 at noon he was drawn out and 
lay without breath of life till 4 or 5 o'clock ; . . . Perhaps 
now some carper will still dare to object, and to say that an 
infant half a year old could have lived half a day without 
breathing." He then appeals to a more remarkable case, 
which, as being one of the Parallel Miracles, is given below. 6 
And this is followed by two other Parallel Miracles, both 
dealing with revivification. 7 

[569] In the half-dozen cures that follow, we may note 
that of Geoffrey of Lindeby, a cutler, 8 who, having lost the 
use of two of his fingers as penalty for working on the 
day of St. Peter's Chair, regained them (on consecutive 
days) at the Martyr's tomb ; also the daughter of Edilda of 
Godmersham (a manor belonging to Canterbury Cathedral) 
recovered the use of her arm at the tomb. 9 

n. Leprosy again 

Now the chronicle returns to cases of leprosy. First 
comes that of Elias of Reading described below in the 
Parallel Miracles ; then that of Gerard of Lille. 1 

[570] Gerard, when the symptoms first appeared, and 
even afterwards, was tolerated by his fellow-citizens as long 
as possible, because of his respectable position and amiable 
nature : but at last, receiving his sentence of banishment, he 
made arrangements for being taken into a leper-house, and 
was on the point of hastening his departure, when, one 
night, he saw himself in a vision prostrated at the tomb of 
the Martyr in Canterbury, and the sarcophagus was cleft 
asunder, and the Saint, through a chink, breathed into his 

4 "ut . . . eliquarem." 5 "decoctus." 6 See 732. 

7 See 737/741. 8 ii. 240. 9 ii. 241. * ii. 243. 

VOL. I 21 


mouth. " In this vision," remarks the chronicler, by the 
way, "it is especially wonderful that, just as he saw the 
marble tomb in his dream, just so did he find it in fact 
when he came to Canterbury." To return to Gerard. He 
sold all that he had and set out to gain " the pearl of price " 
restoration to health. Confirmed by another vision, he 
travelled to Canterbury, where he spent nine sleepless nights, 
daily anointed with, and daily drinking of, the mixture of 
blood and water. Then, " as though cut with razors, the 
skin of his feet and legs (the chief seat of his leprosy) was 
broken so as to afford innumerable passages for the exit of 
his plague ; the flow of matter ran down even into his shoes, 
and so he departed with some abatement of the pressure of 
his disease." 2 Having gone on board he perceived by the 
cessation of the prickings and burnings that he was 
cleansed ; and " as though the Saint were saying to him, 
' Now thou hast been made whole : return and give glory 
to God ' a violent storm arose and drove him back to 
Sandwich. So, as this port was near Canterbury, he turned 
back and presented himself to us cleansed ; and, abiding 
with us many days, he increased the devotion of many 
toward the Martyr." 

[571] But against this must be set the sad case of the 
boy Gilbert of St. Valery, only ten years old, yet a leper, 
almost as diseased as Gerard, " an unbounded cause of grief 
and shame to his parents, who, however, faithfully suppli- 
cated the Lord that he might become the cause of praise 
and glory to His Martyr. And God saw that it was good ; 
and it was so. For when he was brought to the Martyr, he 
was so amended, in the space of three days, that the matter, 
which had been flowing and hardening over the whole of 
his body, disappeared, and the faculty of feeling was restored 
to his hands and feet, and as a whole 3 he seemed (by sure 

2 " imminuta morbi angustia. " 3 "ipse." 


tokens) fairly on the way to perfect restoration." One 
might almost suppose that, in its original form, the mira- 
culous narrative stopped here, so that there was nothing to 
jar With the strain of triumph in " God saw that it was 
good." But our honest chronicler proceeds : " However, on 
his return home, after a very little time by some, I know 
not what, inscrutable judgment of God he became worse 
and a great deal worse than before." 4 

[572] After mentioning another cure of leprosy (one 
that convinced the Bishop of Salisbury 5 ), he passes to a 
particularly acute case, which perhaps would have been 
mentioned before, had not the patient, when cured, left 
Canterbury without telling the monks. Richard Sunieve 
son of a poor woman, but herdsman of a well-to-do knight 
of Edgeworth 6 suffered, like many others mentioned in 
previous narratives, from sleeping out of doors. He awoke 
with face swelled and spotted, and for eight years the leprosy 
spread through his body until at last he was forced to leave 
not only the knight's house but even the village. 7 His 
mother alone " followed him lest he should perish." From 
head to foot he was a mass of ulcers. There was not " the 
space of an arrow's point " sound. So foul was his state 
that even his mother could only give him his food at the 
end of a long stick, or place it where he could find it. Now 
the boy heard of the Martyr's fame, and wept that he had 
no strength to travel to him. His tears were useless till he 
invoked the Saint and rose from his bed and turned towards 
Canterbury. He improved daily and reached his destina- 
tion. " When admitted to the sepulchre, he kissed it, and 
a great swelling, like a small apple, which projected between 
his nose and lip, suddenly disappeared. He thought it 
must have fallen, and felt for it, but could not find it. On 

4 ii. 245 "multo deterius quam ante deterioratus est." 5 See 747. 

6 ii. 245. The text says "Cestrensi," "in Cheshire"; but the Editor sug- 
gests that it is an error for " Gloucestershire." 7 " villa." 


tasting of the Water, he was affected like one intoxicated. 
His feet tottered, and he could scarcely make his way out 
of the church. Then he fell into an ecstasy. 8 Presently, 
arising [from the ground], he felt a new nimbleness in his 
body : and the skin, which, at the moment of his fall, had 
been distended by leprosy, was now, to his great astonish- 
ment, quite thin and wrinkled. To put off his return was 
not to be borne ; so, in order to present himself to his 
friends whole, he gladdened them before us by going home 
at once." It is added that the knight his master, who had 
been doubtful about the Martyr's miracles before, " believed 
now with all his house ; and on hearing that the lad had 
secretly departed, he came, with his wife and household and 
brothers and relations and friends, on a visit to the Martyr, 
and brought the lad sound and healthy. At our special 
request, he also allowed him to stay for a considerable time 
with us." 

12. Trial by ordeal 

[573] The next three narratives refer to trial by ordeal. 1 
No names are given, for obvious reasons in the last two. 
The first deals with trial by battle. The bigger and 
stronger combatant held the weaker in his grip, suspended 
in the air, and was on the point of dashing him to the 
ground when the latter cried, " St. Thomas, Martyr, help ! " 
The fact is attested, says the writer, " by witnesses who were 
present: the stronger, just as if he were crushed by the 
weight of the holy name, suddenly fell in a heap under the 
man he was holding, and so was beaten." The next 
narrative is in two sentences, thus : " Two men being accused 
concerning the forests of the King of England and deer 
which they had taken, were adjudged to ordeal of water. 
One was thereby proved thief and hanged ; the other 
invoked the Martyr with all his might, 2 and got off." 3 The 

8 The context implies that he also fell to the ground. 
1 ii. 247. 2 "attentius." 3 "evasit." 


reason for not mentioning names is still more obvious in the 
following : " I suppress the number and names of others 
justly accused of the same offence, but rescued, by invoking 
the Martyr, from peril of death. For he stood by one of 
them in a vision, bidding them depart 4 He awoke and 
gladdened his comrades with his dream. They were tried 
by ordeal of water. Every man of them got off: and 
all together came to the Martyr to give thanks in woollen 
garments and with feet bare." 

[574] This narrative derives some of its force from the 
fact that the men were "justly accused," in other words, 
guilty in the eyes of the law. Are we to suppose that in 
the next story, Agnes, a widow from Cornwall, 5 was also 
legally in the wrong when she was pleading for her dower 
against her step-son ? Possession was on the point of being 
adjudged to the latter, when Agnes vowed a bare-foot 
pilgrimage to St. Thomas. " Suddenly," says the chronicler, 
" her step-son's hatred was changed into affection : and with- 
out suit, prayer, or price, he gave his step-mother all that 
he had before refused." 

[575] Facetiousness and brevity mark the next three 
narratives. Peter of Dennington 6 in Surrey suffered from 
a swelling in his head, which became as big as a bull's. He 
hardly breathed. The household (all but one) went to 
dinner just after he had received the Water, leaving him in 
desperate case : but scarcely had they departed when he got 
up, put on his shoes, washed his hands, and came down " to 
dine with the diners." The Latin pun cannot be translated 
in what follows " Mirantur convivae ad convivium venisse, 
quern vix vivum reliquissent " : perhaps it was originally a 
French joke. Deafness is next mentioned, an infirmity 
seldom found in Benedict's book : it is only in one ear, and 
is cured by infusion of the Water into the ear affected. After 

* " Abirent." Perhaps this might mean, or might include, "on pilgrimage." 
8 ii. 248. 6 ii. 248 " Denintona." 


mentioning a cure of hernia, attested by the treasurer of the 
Monastery of Lisieux, 7 the writer passes to that of John of 
Valenciennes, blinded at Corbie in punishment of theft. 

[576] This case was like that of Ailward of Westoning, 
of which the fame had spread through England ; 8 and hence 
the Canterbury monks took the trouble to send a messenger 
to Corbie. He reported that " the executioner, rinding a 
difficulty in cutting the eyes out, had in a fit of temper 
drawn a sharp-pointed knife with which he had pierced the 
eyes again and again so cruelly that all thought the poor 
fellow was worse treated in having his eyes thus lacerated 
than in having them torn out. They charged him with 
gross wickedness, in murdering the man instead of blinding 
him." Upon this, the messenger seems to have proceeded 
to the Prior of Corbie, whose letter is appended, 9 to the 
following effect. 

When the young man had been condemned to death for 
theft, and taken to the place of execution, it pleased the 
burgesses to lighten the sentence, so that he might be merely 
blinded : " And presently he was blinded and severely 
wounded in the eyes, and then taken to the infirmary, 
where the keeper Radulph bathed his eyes, that night and 
the following, in hot water . . . and tended them 10 to 
assuage the pain. On the third day, when Radulph 
anxiously asked him whether after his blinding he had the 
least vestige of sight, 11 he replied that in one of his eyes 

7 ii. 249: the "treasurer (thesaurarius) " not only writes, but sends the 
patient, concluding his letter thus : "On this point, ascertain the truth from the 
man himself. ' He is of age ; ask him. ' " 

8 See "Parallel Miracles" below (710). 

9 ii. 250. It is directed to Odo, who was Prior of Canterbury up to 1175. 

10 ii. 251 "refovit (?) poulticed." 

11 " Dum ab eo sollicite percunctaretur utrum ei post excaecationem suam 
extremae saltern visionis aditus patuisset." This is surely very remarkable. If 
a man's hand was cut off, no one would " anxiously ask him whether he had a 
germ of the hand still left." Radulph 's question suggests that, though rare, it was 
not unprecedented, that a man blinded in accordance with law should retain some 
faculty of seeing. 


there was none, but in the other some slight brightness 
was admitted, but so slight that he could not walk straight 
without guidance. Meanwhile there came in a poor young 
clerk, who avowed 12 that he had a glass phial containing 
some of the Water of the Martyr. ... So they took a little 
of the Water, and, after reverently lighting candles in honour 
of the Martyr, they carefully washed the man's eyes there- 
with. Immediately he received his sight, so that even the 
scars of the wounds inflicted in the blinding were also 
healed. Next day he returned to his home, sound and 
happy. And, lest any hesitation concerning this matter 
should linger in your mind, we testify to you that one of 
our brethren drinking of the same Water was freed from a 
flow of humour from the nostrils." 

[577] This instructive letter must be borne in mind 
later on, when we approach two similar cases attested sever- 
ally by burgesses of Bedford and by the Bishop of Durham. 
It shows, first, that the manager of the Monastic Infirmary 
was quite prepared to find some power of sight remaining in 
a man blinded by the public executioner ; secondly, that the 
monks themselves made so slight a distinction between such 
a restoration of sight and more ordinary acts of healing, that 
they considered all grounds for hesitation as to the former 
must be removed, when it was known that the Water had 
cured brother so-and-so of a running cold. 

13. Dropsy ; beer that will not ferment 

[578] At this point, between two miracles performed 
on patients of the name of Geoffrey, comes another, 
recorded by Benedict alone, which perhaps owes its position 
to the fact that here, too, the name is Geoffrey. 1 Peter, 
Abbot of St. Remi, says, " Concerning Geoffrey a monk of 

12 "confessus est." ! See 580. 


Mont Dieu, 2 I relate what I have heard as the true facts, 
partly from himself, but more fully from a monk of ours, 
who wrote on the spot and at the time. It happened that 
a paper of St. Thomas' Miracles had come to us from 
England, and from us to the brothers of Mont Dieu. The 
brother in question, swollen and distended all over an 
unmistakeable case of dropsy could not quit his cell. So 
he took the paper with faith and invocation of the Saint's 
name, 3 and touched his feet therewith, and his legs, and his 
whole body : and he recovered to such an extent that after 
a short interval he returned to the church and to his duty, 
though not completely cured." This very truthful and 
modest statement is principally valuable as showing how 
natural it was, and indeed inevitable, that the accounts of the 
Martyr's Miracles should appear in different versions, and at 
first in brief ones. Here we find mention of one of the earliest, 
a mere " paper." Benedict's treatise, in its first shape, was 
probably much later, but still both early and brief, relatively 
to his later edition, and as compared with William's book. 

[579] Master Richard, a monk of Ely, is responsible for 
the next miracle, which deals with beer. Ralph of Had- 
field 4 and his wife wished to visit the Martyr but had not 
the wherewithal. They thought they would try to make a 
little money by brewing some beer. But the liquor would 
not ferment So the poor wife, seeing her liquor had come 
to naught, cast into it the string that held one of the Saint's 
phials : " Immediately there was such an outburst of what 
the brewing women call ' flowers ' that it could hardly be 
stopped from overflowing : and thus the undrinkable was 
made both drinkable and saleable. These facts however I 
did not receive from the woman herself but from Master 
Richard, monk of Ely, who heard her confess this to him." 

2 ii. 252. The Editor adds "near Sedan." 3 "sancti nominis." 

4 ii. 253 "Hathfeld," another MS. "Hadfeld." Editor suggests also 
" Hatfield " or " Heathfield. ' 


1 4. End of the Fourth Book ; the Fifth Book ; confusion 
in arrangement 

[580] Perhaps Benedict, or his assistant, found it very 
difficult to group miracles, now that he had given up chrono- 
logical order. At all events, whereas just now we had three 
miracles together performed on three people called Geoffrey, 
so we now have, after the brewing miracle attested by a 
monk of Ely (" Heliensis ecclesiae "), a miracle of healing 
performed on " Elias (Helyae) " nephew of the dean of 
Sherborne. 1 Not improbably the leaflets containing some 
of the less important miracles were arranged at first in 
alphabetical order : and this was sometimes done rather 
mechanically. It is doubtless from the same Dean that 
there comes the next brief miracle, the healing of his servant 
Hadewisa by drinking the Water. These two are cases of 
intestinal disease. 

[581] The next two are only worth recording as speci- 
mens of useless unattested narrative, perhaps to be explained 
by pressure of other miracles, and want of leisure in the 
monk, or monks, in charge of the tomb ; (i.) " Among sufferers 
from stone, who more pitiable than Robert of Beverun 2 ? 
He vowed a pilgrimage, tasted the Water, and ejected the 
stone in fragments, crushed by the virtue of the draught." 
(ii.) " Hingan, a neighbour of the above, suffered from fits. 
They seized him sleeping, and his agony distressed all that 
saw him. When he came to himself, he had no recollecti9n 
of being in pain. It was supposed to be some kind of 
falling sickness. He too drank of the salutary Water, and, 
after the draught, lived in peace." 2 

[582] The two with which the Fourth Book concludes 
are foreign in origin and perhaps in style. William le Brun, 

1 ii. 254 "Decani de Siburna," another MS. "Liburna." 

2 "de Beveruno." 

3 After this comes the healing of James, son of the Earl of Clare (758). 


of Caen, overwhelmed with sorrow at the approaching death 
of his son Gilbert, who was suffering from fever, retired to 
his bedroom from the crowd of friends who had come to con- 
sole him, and shut his door, saying, " I will not see my son 
die." At last, however, hearing an outcry, and understanding 
that he was doubtless dying, 4 he ran to the boy's bedside 
and devoted him to St. Thomas. Then he approached his 
son, saying, " Son, for the love of God and the Martyr 
Thomas, if you can, speak to me." The boy, as though 
roused from sleep, lifted his arm and embraced his father. 
And he that was well-nigh dead sat up, and began to speak, 5 
and in the same week he was restored to perfect health. 6 

[583] The last of all is very French. Roger, son of 
Savaric de Vaux an honourable knight, 7 was on the point 
of dying from diarrhoea, not having tasted anything but 
water for twenty days. His parents make a vow to the 
Martyr for him : " Strange, but not past the bounds of truth, 
is the tale I tell. After their vow they go to dinner. 
Among their first courses is a course of joy. For, while 
they were dining, up rose the boy whom they had left in 
his chamber half dead, and, putting on his clothes, came to 
them as they were at table, spinning round in a taratantara 
before their faces, as merry boys will, and full of fun. The 
guests present were full of wonder, and the parents rejoiced 
in their new guest." 

[584] Here ends the Fourth Book, and the Paris MS. 
of Benedict's miracles contains no more. In another MS., 
"there is no notice that a new book begins. But the 
numbering of chapters is broken off, and the remaining part 
of the MS. appears to be written in a different hand." 8 
That we have not here Benedict's own arrangement appears 
demonstrated by the fact that the so-called Fifth Book con- 

4 ii- 257 "advertens quia proculdubio moreretur." 

5 Luke vii. 15. e res titutus est incolumis." 
7 ii. 258 (?) " miles honoratus." 8 ii. 258, Editor's note. 


sists of only four miracles, all of them quite short, except 
the last, which is a case of leprosy, discussed below in the 
Parallel Miracles. 9 It ends in a style unlike that of Benedict, 
at least unlike that of his earlier narratives : " There are 
many, very many, whose skin the Martyr has smoothed and 
relieved from the leper's tubers : but to speak of single cases 
singly and collectively is incongruous. 10 For even a sweet 
song repeated sometimes causes weariness. Lest therefore 
we should make what is trite more trite to the tedium of our 
readers, let us await something new." 

15. The Sixth Book 

The Sixth Book takes its cue from the last words of 
the Fifth : " We sighed," it begins, " for something new. By 
something new are we now kindled anew to a new love of 
the Martyr of the English." l Then the writer passes to the 
delivery of a man buried by a fall of earth, which will be 
found in the Parallel Miracles. 2 Next follows another Parallel, 
one of the longest and most romantic of all, about Salerna 
of I field, who throws herself into a well, 3 and then a third 
about John, servant of Sweyn of Roxburgh, restored after 
being lost in the Tweed. 4 

[585] The next relates incidentally how Geoffrey, Prior 
of Canterbury, went to Rouen with relics of St. Thomas, 
hoping to meet King Richard on his way from Palestine. 
The rumour of the King's arrival at Rouen was false, for he was 
kept prisoner by the Duke of Austria. Richard set out from 
Palestine in Oct. 1193, and Benedict died in 1 193 or 1 194. 

3 See 767. 

10 ii. 260 " non congruit." Does he mean (i) "the two things are incom- 
patible with each other"; or (2) "the combination is not compatible with my 
purpose " ? William (i. 332-3) has a long disquisition on the nature and means 
of healing leprosies collectively. Does Benedict, or, more probably, Benedict's 
scribe, mean that he deliberately disclaims this way of treating the subject ? 

1 ii. 261. The Latin play on "novus" is, of course, intentional. 

2 See 771. 3 See 777. 4 See 783. 


If, therefore, the latter was still collecting notable miracles 
of the Martyr to be added to his book, it is quite possible 
that this may have been one of the last sent to him from 
Canterbury. It is of a degenerate character. Geoffrey has 
taken with him to Rouen a bone of St. Thomas. While 
waiting at Eu for a passage home, he misses this precious 
relic. After his return, he finds it at the altar on Easter 
eve. Filled with grateful wonder, he bade one of the brethren 
record the miracle. The monk neglected to do it and was 
himself punished by losing a relic. But, after a vow to 
repair the omission, he found what he had lost. 5 

[586] If there is no error in a date mentioned in the 
next miracle, we should be forced to conclude that it was 
past Benedict's time : for it describes the Martyr's power in 
releasing four Christians, who were captives among the 
Saracens for fourteen years, dating from the triumph of 
Saladin in 1 1 8?. 6 If " fourteen " were not a mistake for 
" four," this miracle would be nearly ten years later than the 
miracle that follows it, which also relates the release (by 
St. Thomas) of a captive after three years spent among 
the Saracens. It is highly probable that, in the former, an 
original iv was taken for xiv, and that the captives came to 
Canterbury not in 1202 but in 1192 in time to allow of 
the inclusion of the miracle in Benedict's last edition of his 

[587] There is a dramatic fitness in the juxtaposition of 
the last two miracles. The last but one 7 is about a bishop 
coming from the extreme East. The last of all 8 is about a 
nobleman from Ireland, the extreme West. On the very 
day on which the bishop from the East left Canterbury, the 
nobleman from the West reached it. This, says the chron- 
icler, was ordained "in order that there might be fulfilled 
also in the Martyr that which the Lord says in the Gospel, 

6 ii. 268-70. 6 ii. 270-3. 7 ii. 273-9. 8 ii. 279-81. 



' Many shall come from the East and from the West and 
shall sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.' " 

[588] The character of these final miracles, and the 
style of their narratives, make it unlikely that Benedict had 
much if any share in the composition. But it is not improb- 
able that when he was Abbot of Peterborough, he continued 
his task of collecting them, leaving to others the task of 
ascertaining the evidence and transcribing it : and those in 
the Sixth Book may be the very last sent to him. 


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